Social Justice Warriors, small towns, and Trump rallies…let’s talk about my poultry instead.

Chelsea is a small town with a bit of a multiple personality disorder due to its rural location not far from the Evil Empire of Social Justice Warriors, also known as Ann Arbor.   Continue reading

The plus side of “the decline” and hopeful signs in local agrarianism.

I am noticing more small family and cooperative farms in this area which rely on organic production methods, permaculture, and pastured livestock. Interestingly, a number of these farms in this area are explicitly Christian, which is remarkable given the liberal and secular bent of this part of the state (things tend to get more conservative and religious in Michigan as you head north and west).

I don’t know financially how they make it work; maybe they can live really frugally and earn a living from these little farms or (more likely) one or both spouses work outside the home.  In our case, even if we started turning our little homestead into a business, we’d still need outside income.  My husband would still have to keep his job although we could probably replace my job with the fruits of my home labor; my husband is strongly encouraging me to move in that direction, but I am a worrier who lacks confidence in this area, so I’l probably keep my paid job for now.

Here are three little farms not far from where I live that have caught my attention; two of the three are run by Christian families.

C & C Micro-Farm in Gregory doesn’t have a website yet, but you can find them on Facebook.

Growing By Faith Farm in Stockbridge offers classes in the sorts of skills that farm folks might have had 100 years or so ago.  Examples include things like butter-making, how to start a fire with a bow drill, raising and processesing (i.e. killing and prepping) pastured poultry, how to weave a basket out of cattails and the like.

Robin Hills Farm here in Chelsea offers classes, farm tours, and CSA shares of organic produce.

The reason I find these little farms to be a hopeful sign is because even in places like Greece that have been experiencing a fairly length financial collapse, we don’t see total mayhem. People still have basic sustenance and it is not total anarchy.  I think, barring unforseen catastrophe (EMPs, for example, or having Iran someday drop nuclear bombs on us courtesy of the Obama administration’s foolishness), what we’re really in for here is a long, protracted, economic decline in which our collective standard of living is significantly reduced over a period of time.  As that happens, people will naturally return to older methods of food production, with each family finding ways to keep small livestock (chickens, rabbits) and eke out a small garden.  It sounds scary to moderns but it was only three generations ago that this was the normal state of affairs, and it is nice to know that there are already a number of people, a small but growing minority, who are rediscovering old skills and melding them with new ideas from permaculture.

This kind of small-scale agrarianism is a hopeful sign for the immediate future.  When I look at this, I don’t mind the idea of “the decline”; in fact, I rather welcome it.  Why?  Because it is as Herrick Kimball wrote in Light in Our Dwellings ten years ago:

The plain truth, like it or not, is that, in order to succeed in this modern world, on its terms, you must sacrifice your family on the altar of Industrialism.

Yes, I know that is a harsh thing to say. Many people will disagree with me because the industrial model of family life is seen by the masses as normal and, therefore, good. But it is neither normal nor good. It is the spawn of 19th century Industrialism and a historical aberration. It weakens and destroys families. That is the truth and the truth can hurt. Believe me, I know.

The saddest aspect of this situation is that so many professing Christian families willingly buy into the materialistic hubris of our industrial culture.

…I’m convinced that if God’s people are going to be an effective witness to those in the dying industrial culture around us, we must do more than believe in a personal savior, and we must do more than proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. It is imperative that we also live our lives set apart to God. That does not mean that we can simply Christianize the ungodly industrial model and, in so doing, somehow become immune to its pernicious evils. It means we must separate ourselves and our families from the ungodly culture of industrialism.

The only way I know for Christians to effectively separate from the culture of industrialism is to embrace Christian-Agrarian life and culture. Christian-Agrarianism (sometimes called Biblical-Agrarianism) is Christianity lived within an agrarian paradigm. It is trusting God, His word, and His promises more than the false promises of materialistic industrialism in all its manifestations.

Let the decline of materialistic industrialism come, then.

I didn’t know they had a band.

If you live in the vicinity of Chelsea and want something fun to do on a Thursday evening this summer, The Sounds and Sights on Thursday Nights is free and fun.  There is food you can buy, free activities for the kiddos, and live music on every street corner.

We leashed up the pups and took them for a walk at the fest last night and enjoyed listening to this band, especially their cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Can’t Let Go”.  But that band name though…

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Note to any readers who might want to start a band for fun someday: always Google whatever you’re thinking of naming your band first, just to be sure…

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I’m guessing these nice folks and the realtor who is sponsoring their act are not aware that there is another group with that same name. 🙂 Ah, life in a small town.

My first attempt at making maple syrup.

So, I won’t be holding a pancake party for everyone any time soon.  For eight days I dutifully collected sap, strained it through a mesh sieve to remove dirt and bark bits, and stored it in a stainless steal pot in the fridge.

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I’m not sure why, but our maple tree was not a bountiful producer of sap this year.  A tree that size should produce 5-15 gallons of sap in a season but we’ve only collected maybe 2/3 of a gallon of sap. Perhaps it has something to do with the unusually cold weather we had this winter.

On Sunday I boiled it down because sap will spoil after about a week. I had so little that I decided to cook it down right on the stove instead of bothering with building a fire outside:

 

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This would have yielded like a half-cup (lol) of syrup, only I turned my back on it for a few minutes and missed the point at which it hit 7 degrees over the boiling point of water, and it promptly turned into a lump of maple taffy.  Which tasted fine, but this was kind of a lot of work for a couple of pieces of maple taffy candy.

But it was a good learning experience.  Here is a summary of the lessons I’ve learned so far:

1. Sap will run later than expected if the weather is unusually cold; wait to tap until the daytime temperatures are above freezing but the nighttime temperatures are still falling below freezing.

2. I need to get our maple tree checked out by someone. I noticed an area on it where the bark looks like it could be pest-infested; it’s a nice old maple and I don’t want to lose it, so I’ll get that checked out in early summer.

3. I need to scour the property for more maples, as one does not yield enough sap to make it worth tapping.

4. Do NOT turn your back on syrup that is nearly finished boiling down. It turns into maple sugar/taffy pretty fast.  Stay right there with your candy thermometer in hand.

Hopefully the Hedding family, who live not too far from us, are having better luck at H & H Sugarbush farm.  And this weekend is The Big 400 Maple Festival here in the portage communities:

It’s maple syrup time! The communities of The Big 400 are teaming up to celebrate maple syruping in southern Michigan with a festival on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The festival includes pancake breakfasts, tours of tapping areas and the syruping process, the release of a local maple wine, a smoked maple porter and lots of good things to eat.

We’re planning on attending some of the festivities and maybe I’ll glean a few tips to make next year a more successful tapping.