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?

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!

We’re In the Monkey Cage -Jerry Seinfeld


Yes folks, the zoo is open.  Spending our time eyeing strangers over the rims of our iPhones with speculative if not skeptical eyes.  And if that is not enough the cameras, on the phones and on every corner, will do it for us.  Stay on the path and don’t feed the animals.
The glass walls are cleaned every once in a while and no one seems to know who the zookeepers are.  Nevertheless, the food keeps coming and the cages are cleaned; we are happy and content…so they say.  And the next installment is just down the way.
Far back in our memories we seem to remember a different way of living;  I remember when everyone went out to shop, and I’m told that at some point you had to grow your own food.  These narratives of neverland must be mythical.  We’re told what to buy.  Take a left by the palm tree and notice the Orangatangs.
Don’t mind the forlorn looks on the faces; they’re happy as clams.  Just remind them with a peanut how good they’ve got it!  The four walls?  That’s just for safety, both theirs and yours.  Look at their funny butts; let’s post that! And for our next visit we can just catch them if you look hard enough: the majestic cats of the jungle.  I promise they’re in there!  And if you’ll follow me, I’ve got just the place for you.

Pick Your Paths Carefully

How to Choose Between Two Paths in Life | JP Morgan Creating

Some may remember a series of books by Carlos Castenada written in the seventies about a “real, spiritual”** adventure taken by Mr. Castenada, soon afterwards debunked.  In these books the concept of human battles was presented; battles against fear, power, clarity and finally old age.

Fear is the first of the four battles that we must, as individuals and societies, overcome.  While fear is evolutionarily founded on the overwhelming desire to survive, in the context of our modern lives it often misinforms us given our homogeneous societies, given the social pressures that we all endure: mind your parents, go to school, get married, have kids, and retire.  Fear, I have found, often leads many people down paths that they never wanted, that they never desired and stunts intellectual growth.  In short, most of our fear is disconnected from its evolutionary roots of survival and has become a road block to personal growth.

Once we realize that fear is sometimes founded, but more often not founded in reality, we recognize the power that the realization offers us.  Power comes in many forms, one of the more common forms is money.  With money comes security and with security comes the illusion of power.  Our happiness, our contentedness, our self becomes defined by the power that we hold as all important and they (in turn) become dependent on the power that we believe we have.  Soon enough the slave becomes the master.

Our happiness, our contentedness and our security safely put in their virtuous places we are enlightened to the fact that our lives are short and perhaps insignificant in the grande scheme of things.  Perhaps we recognize that independence is based upon understanding and curiosity and that it is these concepts that lead us to the ever illusive peace and contentedness that seems to elude so many.  The universe opens up, we achieve Nirvana, we find god(s); we are clear about our place and purpose in the universe.  And then we are old.

Our bodies let is down when our minds should be at their best.  Aches and pains sneak up on us as we watch the universe expand beyond our comprehension.  We have lived enough years to realize the regrets that we fought so hard not to have, and now some changes, some things, are outside of our grasp.  Our clarity drives these truths home, and we watch as our happiness is now in danger.

It is at this point that we must make our choice, according to Castenada: to jump into the abyss leaving all we know behind, or to fade toward the light and into the oblivion of the masses.  The one leads to loneliness, and the other leads to loss of self; and it is at this point that we face our old enemy fear again and the journey begins again.  Pick your paths carefully and fight like a Viking.

**I believe this phrase to be oxymoronic.


The Unattainable 

Looking at a mountain and slowly crawling up its magnificient facade by eye; the peak, so far up, and smiling down, from its precipice in the sky; seems to smile and smirk as if to say there is no way you will come to me.
And as you ready yourself, taking long breaths and feeling the tingle in your gut; you busy yourself with tools and toys and thoughts of what you must; the answer, you realize and come to know, is in your thoughts and not what you see.

The journey begins one step at a time, one foot, one stone, one rock; you begin the climb and see the sights that the trees down below have blocked; the climb is steep and the rocks are loose and the peak continues to smile.
The days go by, the tiredness heavy, and newness has worn off; your muscles sore, and so alone but the voices in your head they scoff; the morning comes and the pain is fierce, but ahead mile after mile, after mile.

Until one day, all hope is gone, the peak it snears and screams; the pain is numb, the cold is deep, and misery is in your dreams; you walk again, your bones are brittle, your desire is all but erased.
Dumb and blind, careless and lost, your adventure is no more; no more pain can cause you harm, there is no voice to implore; but at the top, you’ve made your goal! And now a smile comes across your face.

At the peak you sit and eat, and hope and power you feel; the sun shines down and the rocks are warm, your fate it has been sealed; you have conquered your fear and made better your life; explained the unexplainable.
Looking down, the trail is known, and the miles they melt away; you’ve not met your match, you’ve accomplished much no matter what others say; all are proven wrong, and you are honestly proud to have attained the unattainable.

It’s Just a Feeling

There is a place for that feeling that we get, our gut feeling, without explanation, about places, people, and decisions.  Sometimes that feeling is a warm and tingly sensation in the stomach and sometimes that feeling is a knot.  Somehow (it seems) our body is reacting to thoughts that we might not realize that we have; somehow are emotion is a road sign to an unknown understanding.

Perhaps this unconscious intelligence has just been blinded by a society that is motivated not by curiosity but by consumerism?  Maybe it takes time to realize, to listen, that how we feel is sometimes linked to what we do.  David Hume famously stated that reason is the slave of the passions.

Do not get me wrong: logical reasoning and rationale must be the foundation; we cannot lie to ourselves and equate our emotions with intelligence.  However, we are human and we must accept the bastard child, emotion.  Reigned in and controlled it will steer us toward what we truly want, ironically.

Think about it: the dreams that we pursue are not rational when we envision them but must be rationally pursued to make them a reality.  So, it seems, that we have a choice: 1) to sleep and perchance to dream, or 2) To dream and perchance to act.  It’s just a feeling after all, but feelings count when we choose to listen carefully.


A Two-For!

In this day and age of endless internet banter it seems that language has been lost. Discussion, too, has taken a blow. We no longer communicate but rather yell our opinions at each other, and of course those opinions are beyond respute. We have answers to questions we do not understand; we have solutions to problems we do not know exist; we speak without understanding the power of words.

Terms either go to the wayside or are used as swords of offensiveness or defensiveness; either way we “are right” when we often do not understand the concepts of words like “right” and “wrong”. Being “politically correct” or simply being empathetic and kind; being “offensive” or simply being “truthful”. Gone are the days, it seems, of being expected to live up to the standards that we create: only need to speak because that is often the only thing we can do.

We use words as weapons and forget the firepower that make language important in the first place: concepts, propositions. We shortcut language without a thought to what that shortcut does to the actual meaning behind words. Without a thought we attack each other. Afterall, they’re only words.

When Things Take a Turn

I recently sold the property that we intended to start our farm on. Oddly enough it was not a difficult decision. The difficulty, as perhaps it always does, lay in the logistics (the work) of actually moving. Even in the short time we were at the place, material and tools pile up. It takes a lot to be self-sufficient.
So, into storage went my workshop and onto my neighbor’s (Neighbor Bob) property went the hens, my tractor and a few other large implements. While our decision to move on from our newly acquired place seems irrational to many I would argue that it would be insane to stretch your hand out to catch a dream and settle.
To expect something you know will not work to get better is to guarantee failure. And so, things take a turn. The work was unrelenting and the limbo that it puts a want-to-be farmer like myself in is almost as stressful as the move itself. But, when things take a turn there is not other option than to enjoy the scenery.
I will not explain that such decisions are easy or that they are the best for everyone, but often times the truth is obvious and that makes the answer even more obvious.
My advice to anyone finding themselves in a situation that is not conducive to their happiness is to remember that change brings new options, many of which were either not noticed or not available. When things take a turn sometimes the best bet is to ride the storm and other times it is to abandon ship. But, the most important aspect of change to remember is that life is short and change, no matter what turn it takes, is inevitable.

Here’s Knowing You!

Pork and Belly 2


It was a good day yesterday. Pork and Belly, our pigs, are hanging in the garage and the job of butchery begins tomorrow. We have four sides to get through and the process will be a learning situation. The process of raising, slaughtering and butchering your own meat is (as the words used to describe the process) a somewhat violent process towards the end but I choose to broaden my perspective and see the beauty in the cycle of life.

Pork and Belly were happy right up to the end. Sniffing at the barrel of the pistol that was about to end his life, Pork was at ease and full of trust; never stressed and never felt a thing. As I took a minute or two to calm my nerves, holding the pistol and watched as he poked at it innocently. I describe this not to disgust or dismay, but to remind us all (including me) that death is not the important thing: life is.

While it is true that Pork and Belly trusted me and I broke that trust, it is also true that I built that trust by giving them the best life that I could. Their life was full of rutting around, eating acorns, pats and scratches and a warm bed of hay every night. There lives were good by any standard and it is that life that I am proud of.

This is a process that I believe is necessary if we insist upon eating meat. It affords us the understanding that by eating we take something of great value, something that we must come to appreciate as we cannot bring it back: a living, breathing, and thinking entity. I do not thank a god or gods for their lives. I am thankful that I have been given the chance to look at life straight in the eye; all the blood and beauty of it. It only gives me a greater appreciation of the food that I eat, and the animals’ lives that I take in order to do just that.

Raise a glass with me to Pork and Belly
Good pigs they were, and good food they are!