Have you heard of the American Farm Bureau’s “Patriot Project? If not, the goal of the project is to ” to facilitate an educational and professional relationship between military veterans seeking a career in agriculture with experienced farmers and ranchers.” The pilot program runs from 2015 to 2016 and works by matching up experienced mentors with veterans just entering an agricultural career.
I came across this program looking for opportunities to connect with experienced farmers in order to give me a bit of an educational boost as we launch our farm in the coming year. Becoming a participant seemed like a long shot for me as this is after all a pilot program and only a very small number of mentors/mentees will be paired together.
I received an email late yesterday announcing that I have indeed been selected as a participant and have been paired up with a mentor in the farming and ranching business here in Central Texas. I can’t begin to describe how excited I am at receiving this opportunity!
We promise we are still around! There hasn’t been much activity on the farm this summer as the heat keeps us from spending too much time “on the ground.” We’ve also been in a bit of a holding pattern waiting for our city house to sell as well as lining up everything we need to get started with building our farm house. I’m happy to report that yesterday we finally signed the papers to close the sale of the city house. We didn’t experience the price we had hoped for, but we are very glad to have that experience behind us so we can better concentrate on the future.
A little work has been done to finish the skirting around the bottom of the barn and we started fencing in an area where we plan to house chickens and start our gardening. We did cultivate a small food plot, but being summer already it wasn’t really time to plant. We did decide to throw a few squash and watermelon seeds in the ground to see what happened. The results haven’t been spectacular, but we didn’t really expect all that much with not being able to water and tend it regularly. We have a few small vines with tiny squash and watermelon starting to develop, but for now this is just for fun and if anything does actually grow to maturity it will be an added bonus.
A local farmer has been tending our hay field for now and with all the spring rain we received this year, he is reaping quite a nice hay harvest this year.
That is pretty much all there is to report for now, but hopefully things will start picking up again this fall. In the meantime, our Facebook page gets updated quite a bit more frequently thanks to my wife, so please feel free to visit and friend us on the Whirldworks Farm Facebook page.
I have discovered that it can be very difficult to document the many activities that go on around the farm, even when there isn’t really a farm yet. I have found, through the sweat of my own brow, that our President was certainly not speaking about farms when he declared, “You didn’t build that!”
The Barn is at a stage that we shall call complete! It still needs some finishing touches, but in my experience it is unwise to call a construction project finished. We still need to close in the bottom and place rodent protection around the perimeter. We did complete the latter task on one side by placing an additional piece of treated lumber below ground level and then attaching 1/4″ wire mesh that extends under ground for about a foot from the barn. Helpful Hint: If you are planning to purchase 1/4″ galvanized metal fabric, the best price we found was at McCoys. It was probably less than half of what I found anywhere else).
It is no wonder that so many homestead mentors recommend trying to find land that already has water and electric/gas service on site. It may not be this way everywhere, but the cost of connecting to a water line just across the street surprised us greatly. We’ll be spending nearly $6000 just to get connected to our water supply. We considered having a well drilled instead, but the $20,000 price tag for that knocked that option off the list.The paperwork, too, has been filled with so much legalese that it took some time to decipher.
Electricity is a little better, but for a little more than $2000 I would think they could dig their own hole for a junction box. We finished digging the hole and trench for them to put it in and I am very thankful to live in a place with little to no rocks for this kind of work.
We hope to have both water and electricity installed by the end of this month!
We have set aside an acre for our future gardening area and have great plans for the future. For the moment though our garden is simply a little 20′ x 4′ plot as a simple token to gardening.
We have a little over 7 acres that will be used for hay production and livestock pasture, but currently my only means of tending the field is a hand-held scythe and a home-made hay baler. While it is fun and good exercise to produce hay in this manner, there is no way for me to realistically work the entire area. Thankfully a local farmer stopped by and we worked out an agreement for him to grow and harvest the hay field.
So far the forest area is on the to-do list and I’m sure we will eventually be able to tackle it. The creek runs through the forest for the entire length of our property and we have already seen areas where trees have fallen creating dams that back up the water during heavy rains. There are also plenty of dead and unhealthy trees that need to come down. With poison ivy in full bloom now and plenty of other tasks at hand, the only trees being cut are those that have either already fallen on the fences or look like they could do so any minute.
One of the greatest American stories is that of John Chapman, known commonly as Johnny Appleseed. Johnny is remembered in our American lexicon as a man passionate about apples and apple trees. He traveled far and wide planting apple tree nurseries. His devotion to sharing nature’s bounty carved him a permanent place in our history. Unfortunately, had Johnny been born about 230 years later his actions just might get him thrown into jail, or at least into some pretty severe legal troubles.
If a Johnny Appleseed in today’s world devoted himself only to planting and growing apple trees, he would be relatively safe. However, the day he bit into one of those apples, took out a seed and handed it to someone else he just might be in violation of the law in most States.
The various State Agriculture Departments impose a strict permitting process for producers and sellers of seeds. The permitting process requires distributors to properly test and label their seed varieties to ensure that consumers are protected from fraudulent business practices.
Unfortunately for smaller, non-profit operations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the local governing authorities are applying this law to their operations as well. In doing so, the community seed libraries are being suspended or shut down altogether in the name of a fight against “Agri-terrorism.”
The irony I find here is that there are a very small number of extremely large agricultural corporations distributing untested “franken-foods” into the marketplace without receiving so much as a second-glance from the same officials shutting down these community libraries.
Thankfully the actions of these government agencies is getting more and more attention. There is a gradual up swelling of citizen opposition to these overreaches and now there is a nationwide campaign underway to allow seed exchanges or libraries to operate without being required to submit to the burdensome costs of permits and regulations.
If you would like to find out how to support the seed-sharing movement and to sign their petition, please visit: SaveSeedSharing.org
In addition, if you’d like to get even more involved on an actionable level, you can learn how to start your own Seed Sharing Library or discover if there is already a nearby library that you could get involved with, visit: SeedLibraries.net
Before you go, here’s a short video that I remember from SOOOO long ago about the legendary Johnny Appleseed.
In honor of our finishing the construction phase of our barn (more details to follow), I thought it would be interesting to put together a short pictorial essay of some of the more unique barns I’ve seen on the web. I can’t say much about each of these barns as I haven’t personally seen any of them, but they are certainly eye-catching and indicative of building skills that have all but disappeared. I hope you enjoy these barns.
Today is March 17th and chances are that you or someone you meet today will be wearing green in honor of remembering the legacy of Saint Patrick. There will be parades, green food, green drink and plenty of tall tales. I wonder though how many of us know the real, true story of Saint Patrick. Here’s a hint: it isn’t about leprechauns, snakes, 4-leaf clovers, or green beer.
Patrick’s true story is about his mission to bring the message of God to the druids and pagans living on the island of Ireland. The clover was indeed part of Patrick’s message, but rather than the famed 4-leaf clover, he used the 3-leaf clover to illustrate the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Thankfully you don’t have to take my word for it as Patrick left behind his own biography in his “Confession.” It is a marvelous and wonderful read, especially for those who want to get to know the true Patron Saint of Ireland.
Here is Saint Patrick’s Confession.
An Irish Blessing
May the rains sweep gentle across your fields,
May the sun warm the land,
May every good seed you have planted bear fruit,
And late summer find you standing in fields of plenty.
Anyone who has spent time driving through rural areas will notice the growth in number of farming homes and buildings falling into disrepair. It isn’t because the farmers aren’t taking care of their assets, it is because the farmers have been leaving farms in record numbers. Corporate farming has not simply filled the void, they have been creating the vacuum that is sucking the life out of small farms across the globe.
Thankfully there is a growing number of people who are becoming aware of the catastrophic results of this trend and small farms are once again sprouting up across the country. Unfortunately the number of new farms is far outpaced by those that are shutting down, forever.
We may not realize the negative aspects of this as the grocery store shelves are still fully stocked with food. What many don’t realize though is that the quality of the food supply is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Food just isn’t as full of flavor and healthy benefit as it once was. If you’ve ever purchased food from a local farmer’s market and compared it to the food at your local store, there’s no doubt you’ve experienced the difference.
Fortunes are certainly not to be made by establishing a new family farm, but money is but a small price to pay for the health and welfare of our families and friends. There are huge considerations to be made when deciding whether or not to go against the tide of modern humanity in order to save our food supply, but consider it we must.
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