Thursday, August 27, 2009

"With justice your right hand is filled"

When I read these words this morning, I thought that this may be a good title for a Western. "Fill your hand" is a common phrase in Max Brand and Louis L'Amour books (maybe Zane Grey too.)

But this phrase didn't come from a Western ... but from Psalm 48: 11 (D-R Ps 47: 11 "thy right hand is full of justice" -maybe even better version as a Western title.)


Got lots of work done the past couple days-getting a good start on planting the fall garden. But we've had no rain. We even had a thunderstorm that knocked out power a couple weeks ago-but no rain came with it.

Today I wake up feeling like a truck hit me. I've taken a bit ill. Maybe I will get caught up on some office work today-and if I get bored with that, maybe post some more about goings-on here.


Mrs. Curley and I were discussing the past, present and future yesterday. It is clear I am no businessman-perhaps that's not so bad as having poor timing. We get into the book business just as print media (in all its forms) is struggling to stay afloat; we decide to reprint old books, most of which now you can now download virtually free from the Internet. Then we get into the pig business as pork prices plummet due to economy and the H1N1 scare (don't dare call it 'swine flu' around here).

I am not complaining in the least. We've struggled, suffered and had a blast-and keep going-laughing a lot at ourselves and God's sense of humor.

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Update on a few items .... In my August 4th post (should food be cheap?) I asked the question:
Let's put it this way, if man used to spend most of his waking hours securing food through labor, should he now do the same through his paycheck?

Time Magazine this week (not my usual reading fare) has a cover article entitled "The Real Cost of Cheap Food". Here's a couple stats from the article:

Since 1935, consolidation and industrialization have seen the number of US farms decline from 6.8 million to fewer than 2 million-with the average farmer now feeding 129 Americans, compared with 19 people in 1940.

Food production was very local-subsistence farming with a little surplus for some cash. And

According to the USDA, Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food, down from 18% in 1966.

The article goes on to dispute whether this cheap food-when considering the subsidies, routine antibiotic use, environmental hazards, and health hazards (due both to antibiotic use and corn as a mainstay of feed)-is really all that cheaper.

We use more grain and corn on our livestock than I would like to, but as we develop our land, our goal is to use less and less grain and feed more and more greens (perhaps pasture if we ever can obtain more land). We don't use antibiotics as a regular course, but I am not opposed to antibiotics for a sick animal.

This year for instance, our meat birds ate mostly from our grass, supplemented by feed. Our hogs get milk, eggs, and some of the garden yield (more in the fall and winter as our greens grow very well during the cooler and rainier months), and this year will also get some of our peanut crop.

More later .... Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I picked up a 2nd hand book last winter and have found it invaluable: Practical Farming for the South by B.F. Bullock (1946). In this book Mr. Bullock urges small farmers to diversify and not put everything into one cash crop which's success can be destroyed by drought or flood. Doing a little research on the net on this title, I found it listed as one of the books written mid-20th century by a black author, but without 'Black themes". I would have never known.

Anyhow, I used it to plan my spring garden, and now my fall garden. One thing Mr. Bullock suggests is planting Swiss Chard: highly drought resistant, but will last into the winter.

I wanted to plant a lot of Swiss Chard this spring, but couldn't find it anywhere locally . I finally got a small packet of 2007 vintage. I planted some as an experiment. It was great! I don't have many plants, but the ones I have are truly drought resistant and taste great.

It is sort of like spinach, but milder, and you have to cook it.

I finally convinced my local feed store owner to order some Swiss Chard for me. (He said he never had anyone ask for it before.) He got it in yesterday-I'll pick it up tomorrow. I am pretty excited.

I have been tilling the finished gardens and spreading manure. First planting for the fall (sugar snap peas, collards, Swiss chard, turnips, spinach, radishes) will come end of this week and beginning of next. Still eating a few butter beans, eggplant, and hoping a new zucchini crop starts fruiting this week.

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I was going to post on this ...

but someone else did it better and sooner. The point in question is "Cash for Clunkers". I will let him speak:

Auto salvage yards are often used by handy car owners who cannot afford the parts and labor of a professional mechanic. With a drop in the supply of parts, the prices will rise... and what was once affordable may no longer be so. And once again, low income Americans get unintentionally shafted.

Read the whole entry here.

The Clunkers are crushed and shredded; thus parts can't be resold. Of course this isn't my only problem with the program, but it is one that has a direct effect on what we do around here when the car breaks.

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hoppin' John

From Rodale's Naturally Great Foods Cookbook (1977):

It is traditional to serve Hopping John on New Year's Day throughout the Carolinas. Eaten then, this dish is believed to bring good luck and plenty of everything the rest of the year.

Hoppin' John is a brown rice and black-eyed pea dish made usually with bacon and often cooked in a crock pot; but Mrs. Curley made it last night with pig's feet--delicious!

It wasn't New Year's Day, but it seems to me that yesterday (or thereabouts) did mark our 5th anniversary on the homestead at Bethany. Of course if you eat Hoppin' John with collard greens, it is supposed to ensure the following year brings wealth. We forgot the collards ... Oh well what do we need wealth for, we have everything!

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Should food be cheap?

It's a question I sometimes ask. On one hand, everyone is entitled to decent, healthy food-it is part of the bounty of the earth-a gift from God.

On the other hand, Big Agriculture and factory foods have made food very cheap, driving small farmers and businessmen out of business.

It used to be that most of a family's waking hours were devoted to food production. As my 91 year old neighbor put it, "We never had any cash, but we ate well." The desire for cash, (i.e. things) killed the family farm-along with the theory of 'economy of scale' championed by Capitalism and Big Ag.

So, if a small family farmer wants to make a living, how does he do it? I will quote from Kelly Klober's book Dirt Hog :

Very little money will ever be made farming for the global village, but the folks in the big houses above the global village, now there's your market.

I don't like it. I would like to produce quality pork for regular folks; they should be able to taste and enjoy pork the way it should taste. It's not just a prerogative of the rich. Yet, I can't stay in business unless my pork is priced for the 'big houses above the global village'.

So is this my problem or the problem of regular folks? Let's put it this way, if man used to spend most of his waking hours securing food through labor, should he now do the same through his paycheck?

The world is different. (Things, I believe are out of kilter, but this is out of the hands of most folks.) Most need cars and other things just to make their way in this world. What is a necessity and what has turned into a 'necessity' through marketing?

My family (the whole family) spends a good part of our time putting food on the table. We haven't bought meat in over a year. We don't grow all our own food, but are getting there. What we don't grow ourselves (or receive from our neighbor's surplus bounty) we buy from a farmer's market. Cash-wise, our food bill is pretty low, but labor-wise, it is pretty high-just ask the kids.

Stuff to think about.


I keep coming back to this general idea (whether expressed by CS Lewis or in this case St. Catherine of Siena): "All the way to Heaven is Heaven". I heard another form of this on Sunday. Our visiting priest commented that we all want to spend eternity with God; if that's really the case, then why don't we spend more time with him now-in prayer?

I guess if we are truly living in the presence of God now-(quite a journey to get there, I would imagine)-then Heaven will not be so much different.

Oremus pro invicem!