Author: Philo


Pieces and Pictures.


As of late, the main job at the farm has been finishing the shop.  “Finishing” has included a hectic schedule of demolition and renovation that has lasted approximately five months.  The job was done alone, and perhaps because of the concentrated reno-work or simply because of the single-handedness there has been an intimate relationship with almost every piece, pipe, and plug in the place.

Now the newly installed floors are being sanded.  Every nook, every cranny, every crack and misplaced joint has been stared down.  The largeness of the job has become a singularity of pieces of a puzzle that is much larger than it seems.  Perspectives change without us knowing.

The fields are unmowed and the barn is filled with “stuff”, seemingly forgotten because of the total concentration on the shop.  However, perspectives change.  The sanding and preparation done, the floors are ready for finishing and the time to broaden perspectives again is now on the horizon.  Perhaps, with a little luck, the farming will come into view soon.

Perhaps soon the nooks and crannies, the cracks and crevices will be forgotten for different puzzles and pieces.  And one day, perhaps, all the pieces will be placed; standing back the picture that was always there, in pieces, will be in full view.  Perspectives change with the pictures that we create.


When in Doubt…

When in doubt, sit and have a cup of coffee.  There are times when we are stumped, misled, in a conundrum about how to do, how to fix something (and there are always things to fix).  To have the patience to know when it is time to stop and have a cup of coffee, however, is a talent that many do not have.

It takes perseverance and patience to know when it is time to stop.

What is the teacher that teaches us such things?  Anger and frustration.  Things don’t care and the universe (especially physics) has no aim or motivation to make our lives miserable.  We do just fine at that without any help.

When to tool slips, the nut strips, the puzzle just cannot be figured out…take a break.

On a farm it is easy to get wrapped up in the endless maze of chores, of work, of reparations.  But, having lived a life both in the professional and agrarian world, the endless list of things to do differ only in type, not amount.

And so take a break, grab a chair, have a coffee, get a nap; do what you need to do to figure out the problem.  As many have found out: many a puzzle has been solved in dreams.

Speed Limits


For the last ten days I’ve been motorcycling around the Northeast and the Midwest.  Through the rolling mountains of New York, the Catskills and the Allegheny mountains touted small towns, luscious forests and hidden restaurant gems that serve farm-to-table foods together with local brews.

The Allegheny mountains through Pennsylvania seemed more rough and rowdy than the somewhat civilized backwoods of New York, but they too served up ready brews and food from local farmers.  The stars of the trip, no doubt, but the winding road through West Virginia and the amazing nature that goes along with such twisting scenery soothes the soul, even at 65 mph around 35 mph corners.

The Midwest’s flat lands were a welcomed respite from from the work of the winding roads that flattened out in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.  The food changed too.  Now the long single-lane roads were dotted with small towns and more fast-food.  The roads were beautiful in themselves and offered thoughts that were often recited out loud in the helmet while the wind whistled constantly.

I love motorcycles because they allow the riders willing to search an experience that is lost on those that scale the highways in their air-conditioned automobiles.  The experience is sensory in all its forms: from the smells to the tastes of coming rains.  The motorcyclist recognizes the differences between the small back roads and the long reigning highways.

The small roads offer smells of pine and forest, of food and farms, of the dank and dusky smells of animal life to the warm and inviting smells of people cooking for others.  The highways offer time but at a price: the experiences are limited to oil in fryers to oil at the gas stations.  Everything is fast, from the food to the freeways.

I have lived on the highways for long enough, but the small back roads take getting used to.  Perhaps I will slow those corners to their posted speed limits one

Stupid Questions

We have a broody hen.  For those who may not know, a broody hen is one desires “motherhood”.  Our hen has been broody for about 1 1/2 weeks so far, but keeps changing boxes.  The cure is one of three things: 1) wait it out, 2) let her lay on eggs, or 3) buy some chicks and give them to her.

The natural thing is to let her lay on eggs, and we are trying to be as natural as possible: nature does know best.  However, she keeps moving boxes after a few days and by then the eggs are bad.  Is this natural?  Perhaps it is.

One thing I’ve learned from working on a farm is that the best method is the natural method; there are really no exceptions for this: nature really does know best.  But what’s in it for nature when a hen keeps moving?

The question, I think, is wrong headed: nature has not motivated goal, no purpose.  When I go into the hen house and my broody hen has moved it is me that wonders, not her.  Nature, like farming, is messy and running blind.  As farmers we really just hang on for the ride and try to find sunny spots to plant things in; we try to give our animals the best lives we can.

We fail much of the time, but much off the time we try to be farmers rather than caretakers.

My broody hen lays in her box because that’s what her body is telling her to do.  Maybe if we listened to nature a bit more we would stop asking such stupid questions too?

Persistent Perseverance

To make anything of value work, persistence is the key.  This old and perhaps worn-out adage is, in fact, true.  As a newly minted, self-sufficient farmer I can attest for that.  However, persistence is only half the story.

Perseverance is the other half.  Self-sufficiency is honest work; it is demanding work, and it is unforgiving.  Failure is not an option: it is a matter of fact, it is an absolute.  You will persist…at first.

And when persistence seems impossible, perseverance needs to take over.

Often times the work will seem endless, giving up seems at times the only option, but only half of that is true: the work is endless but life is not.

Take time to look up at the stars at night.  Take time to watch the fog break early in the morning over the uncut fields.  Take time to watch the turkey eating the fallen crab apples down by the creek.  And take time to enjoy life and the ones you love.

Work will be there, as it always is, but we must persevere in the happiness that is life and be persistent in the value that we put upon it.

Lesson # 1,499,789,321


A bear got into one of my hives last week.  The carnage was, well…it was a bear.  Right behind where the hive sits there was a large place where it was obvious that he just laid down and slicked up the frames.  There was wax and wood all over the place, but there were three or four frames that seemed like they were laid gently next to some bricks.

I didn’t notice the hive had been massacred right off the bat.  During the day I like to look out the back window of the soon-to-be shop and watch the bees fly in and out of their home.  I did this, and I noticed.  Running out and realizing what had happened I didn’t get angry; it was strange.

I picked up the leaning frames and instantly saw a huge glump of bees: was the queen alright?!  Gently I set up the hive again, and put the three frames (full of globs of bees) in the middle,  surrounding them with clean, unadulterated frames.  The next day I added a frame of honey; they weren’t so nice.

Everyone has told me that bears attack hives; up in the mountains of Colorado, and evidently in Northern New England.  I can’t blame the bear, it must eat as we all do.  I only have myself to blame.  That is in fact lesson that is cyclical: it is my fault and no one else’s.  The lessons we learn are seldom about bears or bees, accidents or bad “fate”  (There is no such thing you know).

It is our fault, the blame is our own; and we must learn because to make mistakes is human, but to learn from them is god-like.

Carpe Diem


When starting a project that seems overwhelming the best thing to do is…start.  This is how people who have started such projects eventually got them done.   While it is true that we ride the shoulders of giants, those giants accomplished their amazing feats with a simple decision to try.

No matter what it is that catches our eye, tickles our fancy, gets our attention, we must simply pick up a hammer, a saw, a shovel, a pen (or a computer) and get to work.  Take the time away from the thieving habits in our lives that steal that precious commodity and take on a project, create a goal to achieve: start something that you are not sure you can finish.

One day, it might be after sleepless nights, soreness, profanity, and hopelessness, but one day you will step back and out of the corner of your eye you will notice that the last nail has been hammered, the last plant planted, the last period placed.  It is at this point that you lay the tools down and wait for the smile to cross your lips and the heaviness to lift (ever so slightly) from you shoulders.

Carpe diem!




Slowly, but surely we are rebuilding our farm.  New starts, sometimes, require new starts and such was the case with us.  So much in two years, but all necessary; difficult but necessary.  At least we have our hens back and they’ve started laying.

Every morning I turn into our dirt driveway and look forward to opening the hen house and watching the girls (and Bentsen the rooster) pour out.  There are always a few girls in the boxes.

At the end of the day I go out to collect the eggs.  This is the ritual.  The day begins, by the way, with scrambled eggs and often at dinner we do a southern favorite: deviled eggs.  Of course, we always have a supply of hard boiled eggs.

The other morning I just couldn’t do eggs (I just couldn’t!); yogurt instead.  And the girls kept laying as hens do.  Happy hens picking around on the farm all day finding ticks, eating grass and taking dirt baths and laying eggs.

We have about five dozen eggs in the fridge as I write this; we eat eggs almost every morning and now my favorite childhood treat, deviled eggs, is starting to lose its luster.  This is just not right!  More eggs tomorrow.

And the hens keep laying; happily clucking away after they do. And the thought came to mind: this is why people began bartering.  Not because they wanted a profit: because they got tired of eating eggs every day.

Don’t get me wrong: fresh eggs are a wonderful thing that sadly many people never experience (other lost experiences include fresh, self-slaughtered pork and chicken, and unpasteurized milk).

Eggs are wonderful, and hens are wonderful.  There is a downside to happy hens: lots of eggs.  In big cities these are premium: $5-7 a dozen, but out in the country people just grin at such prices.

“I’ll trade you some eggs for some of that homemade cheesecake?!”

Well, some things you just can’t turn down.


spaceSpace is amazing thing.  We create things to create space; we place things to create certain spaces and we rely upon people to give us space.  Space surrounds us; it makes up most of the universe and yet we are surrounded by barriers.

Once asked the job of government the answer was simple: to create space for a civilized society.

Once asked why read, the answer was simple: to create space in our minds for imagination.

Why learn?  To create space for curiosity.

Why be curious?  To create space for progress.

We all need space to ourselves and to allow space for others.  This is not just tolerance; we must not tolerate stupidity or incompetence.  But we must leave space for those who do not want to be or to remain stupid; to be or to remain incompetent.

There must be space for them and the change that they search for in the space that they live in.

There must be space for change; and it is in the spaces that we create that life happens.