Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Start the Revolution Without Me (part1)

I get a mental picture of would be revolutionaries on the web, in the papers, and on talk radio of some 40+ something male, wearing a wife beater, sitting at his PC, safely in his home, collecting his pension or some other socialized welfare, and posting on chat pages and forums about how he can't take it anymore and the New American Revolution needs to start soon. He stops clicking his mouse, takes a slug of his coffee, sits back in his chair and thinks to himself... "there now, I've done my part". Well short of asking this man to go ahead and fire the first shot (few revolutions have occurred in the history of the world without a charismatic martyr to lead the way - Mr. McVeigh thought he was that guy), I will ask him to shut up and listen for a few minutes as I describe the coming New American Revolution and the shape it will take.

So, if you are holed-up in a bunker with your 3500 cans of collard greens and peas, bottled water, and MREs from the army surplus store, calling for a revolution - SHUT UP! just for a minute please.

If you are tired of the legislative dictatorship we've experienced over the last 20 years and you hope, from your armchair to incite the next American Revolution, SHUT UP! just for a minute please

If this revolution you say you want involves Tea Parties, canned goods, guns, a local militia, and riots, I've got new for you...

There is a new American Revolution imminent, but it will not be brought to bear by armed insurrection, martial law, or secession of the states. Here's why:

1. We can not count on our military to swap allegiances, even from our good-ole-boys from the south. One popular argument for "our" perceived ability to stand up to the American Military if, indeed, El Presidente (whomever that may be) calls the troops home to qwell armed resurrections led by an irate American public, is that most of the military is made up of enlisted men from the south. We middle aged romanticists would like to believe that our sons' loyalties to their home state will be such that they will defect from the military to serve their local community (a la Robert E. Lee). I think, though, that this kind of loyalty no longer exists. Our society has been so oriented that loyalty, anymore, is to one's self.

 2. The strength of the military-industrial complex is such that any armed resistance on the part of the revolutionaries would be instantly qwelled. Give me a hundred, or a thousand, or five-thousand men to lead and we would not be able to stand up against the jets, tanks, and weaponry our defecting sons would have to leave behind them. My .22 rifle, Daisy BB gun, and Enfield Rifle will only allow me to die for what I believe in - in much the same way Butch and Sundance did in Bolivia. Yes, I am one of those that believe they died at the end of the movie.

3. We would no longer be fighting only the military of our government but also the government owned (yes owned) or controlled food, fuel, and currency systems. It seems obvious to me that the best way for our government to control us in the event things get really bad, is to control our access to food. Monsanto owns the seeds, the pesticides, the herbicides, and the fertilizer. They also operate a revolving door in the offices of the Food and Drug Administration. This is very well documented just by following the mobility of high ranking officials between the two organizations. We are not in control of our economy. Our blood, sweat, and tears, go towards the production of goods and services that are paid for by people or corporations outside of our sphere of influence. We, therefore, get to sell our labor and goods LOW while the corporations, far distant from us, in the next big city over or the next country get to sell HIGH. We are not self sufficient to the point that we can survive the shut down of the food, fuel, and entertainment pipelines into our little local communities. If you've but those survivalist seed packets in the hermetically sealed ammo-box-looking cannisters, take a good look at how many turnips you will eat the first year!

4. Our dumbed-down, fully dependent society, which has become the majority of the American Population, are too apathetic or ignorant, or so dependent on global groceries, fuel, and entertainment, that the last thing they will want to do is dirupt their supply chain of food, gas, and American Idol.

Now to describe the kind of revolution that we need (sorry to disappoint you there in the bunker yelling for someone to fire the first shot) I will need to direct you to Don't Start the Revolution Without Me part 2. 

Friday, February 25, 2011


I feel though a million souls cried out in anguish and then were silenced.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Goodite Movement

As a 12 year old living on a 7 acre farm in central Ohio, I would rush home from school after my standing 3:00 PM appointment for a butt kicking at the flag pole by any number of corn-fed brutes, rush through the farm chores, which consisted of just making sure nothing was dead, and then lock myself in my room for the next hour and a half until Mother and Father got home. I made myself our approved after-school snack of peanut butter and jelly mixed up in a coffee cup and settled down to watching three BBC television shows that started at 4:00 PM on the Ohio PBS station. PBS was, incidentally, the only station I could get on my little black and white hand-me-down television. No cable TV at that time and even if there were cable available Mom and Dad were going through their television is evil phase and would not have gotten it anyway.

At 4:30 I would watch my daily rerun of the Benny Hill Show. Mom would have killed me if she had known that! At 5:00 Monty Python's Flying Circus opened up a whole new world of inanity and sarcasm. But 4:00 o'clock was the half hour I looked forward to most. The Good Life aired as reruns every afternoon and every afternoon I was there slurping my PB&J in a cup watching Tom and Barbara live their wacky life in a London Suburb. There were only 22 or so episodes in the entire series but I didn't care. I loved every show whether I had seen it once or a hundred times.

Tom and Barbara Good decide to leave the rat race. Tom had just turned 40, quit his job in downtown London, and they both decided to take a shot at self-sufficiency. Their neighbors, Jerry and Margot Ledbetter, did not understand. Especially when the Goods told them that they were not moving to a farm, but that they were going to plow up their front and back yard and start living The Good Life right there next door to them in Surbiton.

Every year, Patt and I watch the entire series over the course of February to help us get motivated for the year to come on our own homestead. We are coming to the end of the boxed set now and are ready to take the farm by storm...then, when we finally finish every episode, we'll put the DVD cases back on the shelf. I already can't wait till I can watch them again. The You Tube video I've posted is an 8 minute clip of the first show of the 1st season. (I am not sure how this is legally posted on You Tube as the DVDs are still sold on the market so I may have to pull it down eventually).

A couple of years ago Patt did some research concerning how the show came about and surprisingly it is has become somewhat of a movement as there are many who have done the same as the fictional characters on the show- us included. The producers of the show got their ideas from John Seymour who fathered the self-sufficiency and integrated small-holdings movement in Britain.

Genius or Serendipity?

I compensate for my lack of knowledge and skill with stubborness. If I knew how to make a right-angle corner or had the skill to cut a 45-degree corner into a piece of molding no compensation would be needed. The fact that I can not do these kinds of things is why stubborness is vital. I therefore present to you the "No Matter How Many Times I Cut It, It Is Still Too Short" edition of the Shamrock and Thistle BLOG OF INANITY!

 The gates I built for the stalls in our barn are a good example of making the best out of an unattractive situation. The gates were made out of recycled lumber. The burnt boards that make up the body of the gate are from the wood siding on the old house that burnt last year. Without thinking I screwed them to the frame on the inside which made for an odd looking gate. I was bothered by this at first and contemplated rebuilding the thing to make it look right but then decided it would be quicker to add a 1x1 rail across the top and in the indention of the gate create a storage area for short handled tools. Genius or Serendipity? When I give a tour of our barn I generally fail to mention that the design was an accident caused by my inexperience and lack of know-how and let my guest draw his own conclusions as to my genius!

 This chicken house was constructed from wood siding salvaged from the old house. It doesn't look it in the picture, but the entire structure is level. The amazing thing about this is that I have never built anything 'level' in my life. I can only guess that it was because I was trying to build it with a slope towards the back that I actually, accidently finished with a level building all the way up to the roof. I had to add a strip of lumber to the front edge of the structure to make sure the tin would slope enough to allow water to run off the back. Stubborness trumps stupidity eventually.

I threw this gate together pretty quick one day. It has two pieces. The top piece sits on two wood brackets mounted on the inside of the door frame. The cross piece is a segment of landscape timber scrap that I remove and use to "lock" the door everynight when the chickens go inside to roost. The gate was built with the intention of keeping our goats out of the chicken feed. It did the job! What amazed me even more than getting something to work right the first time is that our egg production went up and our feed consumption went down. Why? Because, not only were we keeping the goats out of the feed, but our geese can't seem to solve this puzzle of a gate and aren't eating the feed either. We are getting more eggs now because this gate also deters our egg-sucking dogs from stealing eggs from the nesting boxes.
I am going to claim this as genius though I really didn't plan it to be so effective!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Let's Get Serious

WARNING: The following blog contains pervasive sarcasm. The Office of The Surgeon General has determined that farmers that can not detect, understand, and appreciate sarcasm will likely experience the following symptoms if exposed to large amounts: violent muscle spasms surrounding the head and neck, vertigo, increased blood pressure, and the inability to speak fluidly in complete sentences. Rarer side effects could include violent outbursts that result in personal attacks on perfect strangers, foaming of the mouth, and incontinence.

I've been notified that our blog is inane. No, "stupid" is the word. The person telling us this would, of course, be unable to use the word "inane" in its proper context because of the stilted vocabulary of some farmers in the homesteading community (this blog contains parentheticals (little curved lines that look like the side of a fishbowl used to further clarify a statement that is made) with optional words for these people that may help them understand what is being said). However, upon hearing this critique (opinion) of our blog I have come to realize that it really is inane (stupid). And, moreover, I think I like it that way.  But let's move on to some serious farm stuff.

First let me start of with this graphic illustration (picture) :

This is a Highland Cow raised in what we like to call "The Right Way".

Fiona, the momma cow gave birth to Angus her baby the day before. They are standing in the area where we feed them round bales of hay every winter. When they are done eating for the winter, we clean up the waste hay and manure and compost it. We no longer raise cows because our kids are grown and gone. Realizing that cattle management was more than we needed to be doing we gave her back to the farm that sold her to us. The compost we get from our animals adds nutrients to our garden and allows us to sell produce like this:

at our farmer's market without the use of artificial (fake) fertilizer that relies on petroleum (oil and gas) for its production (to be made).

It is this type of integration (everything serving a purpose and working together) that moves us towards self-sufficiency (we take care of our selves without spending money) and reduces our impact on the earth (we don't cause pollution (dirty stuff getting into cleans stuff we eat, drink, and breathe)).

So I've decided to show you all our integrated system (see note in prior paragraph (the little clump of words that is used to convey thought.)) The following is a roll-call of some of our working animals, their functions and status on our farm. I hope you enjoy.

Species: Hen
Function: Lay Eggs, eat bugs, raise babies, composting
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Eggs from our chickens not only feed us but they go into the bread we sell, and the shells go into the garden to add calcium to the soil.

Name: Blue
Species: Dog
Function: notifies us of approaching storms and the presence of predators (things that eat our chickens and rabbits)
Emotional Status: A little neurotic (worries a lot) but basically happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Matilde
Species: Big Black Hog (pig)
Function: raise babies, eat leftovers, till new garden areas, composting
Emotional Status: Happy as a pig in manure ($h!t)
Biological Status: Not Dead

Names: D'Artagnan, Porthos, Constance, Milady, and Mazarin (characters in The Three Musketeers)
Species: Toulouse Geese
Function: Make terrible noises when strangers come by, lay eggs, raise babies, provide Christmas dinner, and weed the garden, keep the dogs away from the chickens
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Lucille
Species: Chinchilla cross rabbit
Function: Raise babies, fertilize the pasture, mows the grass
Emotional Status: Happy and relieved after giving birth to the kits below
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: unnamed
Species: Chinchilla/Lop cross rabbits
Function: food
Emotional Status: Happy and cute!
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Susan
Species: Nubian Goat
Function: make babies, eat brush and weeds, provide milk, provide fertilizer
Emotional Status: Happy and very pregnant
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: Flurry
Species: Big Black Hog cross
Function: eat leftovers, till new garden areas, and eventually provide us food
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: unnamed
Species: Guinea
Function: with the rest of the flock (now 13 strong) eat fleas, ticks, cabbage worms, and potato beetles, make irritating (really bugs you) noises when predators (things that eat our chickens like hawks) come around, raises babies
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead

Name: S'more
Species: Cat
Function: kills mice in the barn, moles, and those darned pesky cardinals, tears up the screen door, warms Patt's side of the bed
Emotional Status: Happy
Biological Status: Not Dead (really)

There are many more individual animals that all fall into these categories of species I have listed here. They all help out in reducing our expenses and increasing our yield (what we get out of the farm to feed us or make money). As you can see, with the exception of the cows, which we no longer raise, none of our family of animals is malnourished (starving to death), diseased (dying of sickness), or superfluous (unnecessary or otherwise not contributing to the health and function of the farm.)

This is the key: Do nothing for which you do not have the time or money to sustain. Have nothing that does not contribute to something else you are trying to do on the farm. If your needs change, like ours, now that we do not need a freezer full of beef to feed us, change the focus of your farm. If time or money is ever our excuse for animals suffering and dying, then we have mismanaged our farm.

Other important factors: Unexpected death, illness, and disaster do NOT have to be a part of one's farm operation. With forethought, patience, humility, organization, efficiency, and compassion we do not have to live like we are in a Hallmark Television Special where Pa gets his arm caught in a combine and Ma has to saw it off and because she's doing that she burns the last pot of beans on the stove, and little sister dies of starvation.

Unpredictable weather and unpredictable animals provide enough to deal with, but if the management of our farm is so complex and dis-integrated (not working together) that we will not be able to handle those unpredictable forces of nature when they come, then something will need to change - reduce the number of animals, for instance.

Probably the most important thing though - is to have fun, don't take yourself too seriously, admit you make mistakes, and when another farmer genuinely offers help - take it! That being said...I will now return the Shamrock and Thistle Farm Blog back to its original inane (stupid) format.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stomach Virus Science

Just when one thought one could not take any more pain or discomfort, the human body once again shows its resilience, stamina, and yes, its sense of humor. It is interesting what one thinks of when one is staring at the bottom of one's toilet at two o'clock in the morning. For your reading pleasure, I have tried to capture some of the science behind the stomach virus. The facts listed below are from my own observations. The chart below describes the cycle of events with which the stomach virus is comprised. I think it fitting that a diagram describing this most terrible of circumstances is in the shape of what electronics engineers call a "Saw Tooth" wave form. Hopefully the test boxes and arrows are sufficient descriptions of the typical sequence of events. This will prevent me from having to delve into graphic and uncomfortable details.

1) There is a point during a stomach virus where you will cry out to your god. Even if you think you don't have one. And ask to be put out of your misery.

2) I need to chew my food more efficiently. I mean, really, if I can recognize an entire meal and dessert 6 hours after ingesting them, what kind of nutrition am I really gleaning from what I have ingested? The pork stew was really good, the first time. But after recognizing it distinctly 6 hours later, it was disturbing. Not only was the nutrition contained in that meal completely wasted, I had to taste it again, and see it again as if the film were run backwards. That particular pork stew has been removed from any future menus. That, in itself, is not fair, as I do not think it was the stew's fault at all. I think it's Perryville's water.

3) You've all heard people say, or perhaps you've made the observation yourself, that they can't do more than one thing at a time. "I just can't seem to multi-task", as the modern venacular goes. During the above described sequence of "saw-tooth" steady ramp-ups in discomfort, and sharp declines into a brief period of magnificent internal peace, comes a point when the worst multi-tasker in the world CAN do two things at once. I will spare you any more gory details and leave you with this illustration:

The north bound and south bound trains have left the station - simultaneously!

4) You will lie to yourself and to God, even if you think He doesn't exist. You will say stupid things like, "I will never do such and such again, I promise." or "I will never eat this particular pork stew again!" or "Please let this be over and I will go to church every Sunday!" It is better not to make those promises as I suspect that God, even if you think He isn't real, may hold us to those promises.

5) Your dog will stare up at you, generally during the R rated portion of the diagram, with an expression on his face that seems to ask 'You gonna want that? You're just wasting it you know'
6) There are two kinds of people in the world. The first feels that twinge of nausea, the gradual intensifying of the queasiness and say to himself "I am not going to puke! I am going to hold it down with all my might and make it find another way out!" This person steels his nerves, summons his courage and with all his might we tries to stay just at the crest of the "saw-tooth" in hopes that eventually the pork stew will discover a more dignified form of passage. I am this kind of person. I would rather be in the relatively dignified sitting position than the kneeling one any time and will endure almost any amount of discomfort to do so. The second kind of person feels like they should just go with the natural course of things and the sooner it comes out - even if both trains leave the station - the sooner it will all be over. I guess there are lessons to be learned either way.

7) And finally, modern bathrooms are wonderful. However, in cases like this, the bath tub can be a problem. Especially if you have one of those drain plugs that you activate with your foot. I am sure the inventor of this infernal device felt the convenience of opening and closing the bath drain with one's foot would far outweigh any inconvenience that might be caused during a stomach virus. I want to warn you - do not allow the north bound train to arrive in the bath tub station! The cute little foot-activated drain plug has a rubber seal around it to stop water when it is pressed. When it is open there is not a large enough opening for anything but water and the odd hairball to pass. So not only do you get your pork stew back in the toilet, if you make the decision to purge in the tub, and then try to rinse it all down the drain, you will have reconstituted pork stew in your bath tub. The PRIME DIRECTIVE in our house is - "If you vomit in the tub - YOU clean it out!"

I hope you enjoyed the lesson for today and I hope it will help you the next time you find yourself in a similar situation...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Shamrock and Thistle Update

 Earlier today I measured our snowfall from last night. We topped out at 6 inches and as of this posting the snow is still falling lightly.
 So...I added a third wall to the pig shelter. Can't quite make them out in this picture but they have buried themselves under a bale of hay under the shelter.
 Another "found wood" project - the completion of my new workbench in the barn. This stall does not have an exterior wall yet so the snow blew in a covered it with a light dusting.

Wood gathered during one of the warmer days this week after the snow melted off. It has been drying in the barn and is now collected in one of the most used tools on the farm. It is now ready to push up the hill when the supply of firewood in the house is used up.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Faith in Our Political System

Eleven years ago I kind of had a rebirth of my faith in our American system of Government. Coming out of the debacle that was the Clinton Administration, the American people were faced with a less than desireable choice for President. Al Gore vs. George W. Bush. Blech! During one debate between the two candidates W said something that I, perhaps naively, latched on to and for the first time in my adult life I was sure who I needed to vote for.
The inserted video is W talking about the danger of nation building. It is well worth the listening.

I voted for Bush solely based on the earnestness of these statements. Fast Forward a few months to Sept 11, 2001. The twin towers fall. The country is in shock. We attack in retaliation. Patriotism flowed. Now almost 10 years later many in America have forgotten. And now I have 3 sons in the Army. One has just returned from Afghanistan, one is preparing to go, and one is heading off for training in Explosives Ordinance Disposal in April. 10 years later! Guess what Mr. Bush? We are NATION BUILDING. Our bridges are collapsing, I've replaced 4 wheel bearings in my truck in the last year, most likely due to the enormous pot holes in roads and highways all over the south east, companies are crashing, inflation is through the roof (you can't listen to the inflation numbers because they do not account for product shrinkage in the pricing - that's another post for another time). We are nation building in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries all over the world, and our own country is falling apart. Contrary to the statements in the video, America has indeed, entered into countries and said, "We're Americans! This is the way we do things! You need to do them too!"

According to Why

Only 40% of registered voters turned out for midterm elections. Part of this low number is probably because it was not a presidential election year but even so. Less than half of the voters that are registered to vote actually cast a ballot. Efforts to educate these deadbeats, inspire them, coerce them, make it easier for them to vote have failed and continue to fail. Why?

Well, I am one of those deadbeats who believes in the wisdom of a bumper sticker I once saw on the truck of a man who sold us a pig from his farm fenced in old fridges. "Save America - Vote for No One." it said.

It is time our officials start to understand that they are losing the 40 and under crowd of voters. We are disparaged, seen as deadbeats, lackadaisical, apathetic, and un-American. Tell some one that you recently cheated on your tax forms and they will call you a great American! But tell them you do not vote and their latent McCarthyism oozes from their pores. Wake up America! My non-vote comprises 60% of the registered voters. We are the majority! You that keep your faith in this system that does not work for us but for those that know how to work the system - you are the minority! And you think your voice matters?

Thank God that the system works so slowly that drastic, catastrophic change can not happen. I am represented by no one. One Arkansas state legislator hopeful raised a bill in the house to allow the private sales of raw milk in Arkansas. Before the bill even made it to the legislature for a vote (a vote of our representatives!) the state health department blocked its being presented. Who is being represented here?

I could list many other examples of how I am being taxed without true representation. But I am sure you can find your own as well.

I have lost my faith in the system and somewhat sadly I am simply waiting for its decay. Guns won't save us, the dollar won't save us, canned goods and bottled water in a bunker won't save us. What will? Americans standing together and working together in spite of our goverments interference. A neighbor who won't sue if he trips over a garden hose in my back yard. Americans living within their means, learning to do without (self-inflicted controlled suffering - another topic for another day), Americans, determined to live free and do what's right. Peace, confidence, strength, justice, mercy, and truth will keep our country strong. Regardless of what it is called - America, China West, or The New Palestine.

As for me, I am trying to build my nation right here in Perry County Arkansas. I am calling our little 3.5 acres Hutchins-stan and as its King, I promise to build this new nation one square inch at a time into a fertile, peaceful land ruled with mercy and justice. And I am now officially announcing the cessation of this land from what was once known as the United States of America. Mostly because we are no longer united and we no longer have states. We have one state divided into 50 official counties and hundreds of other principalities around the world.

Here in Hutchins-stan, the residents are united, though we have our differences, those differences are worked through in a true representative form of government everyone (almost everyone) shares in the work and contributes to the state coffers. Now I must leave you. I am late for a cabinet meeting where we will be discussing the problem of our paying tribute to the tyrannical, non-representative government and how to cease payments immediately.