Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekend update

We've been getting a lot done around here. Planted a field of peanuts on Thursday. Picked our first zucchini today. It looks like we'll have lots more. Second crop of peas (first were sugar snap, these are Alaskan) are up and starting to fruit. Kale is going strong. The spring collards are about done (fed these to the pigs.)

Speaking of which, we are starting to 'creep' feed them (meaning feeding them food which their momma can't get to but they can) in preparation of weaning them this week.

Don't know if I mentioned it before, but we acquired a couple Duroc/Tamworth cross weaner piglets a few weeks ago. One is hopefully for the herd. Here's a picture of these two. I like red pigs.

The milking is going well. We still haven't separated the calf from the mother, (we haven't finished the milking shed for that matter), but we are getting almost 3 gallons a day for ourselves, plus cream for the coffee and butter.

One sad note for us, but a happy note for others-as they gain what we lose: Our beloved pastor, Fr. John O'Holohan is returning to Ireland for good. He will be living in a Jesuit house their and working in a parish in Dublin near his family. We will miss him. He inspired and guided us these past almost 5 years. We will pray for him (and a holy pastor for our parish) and miss him.

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Need to update some of my side links, especially to include sites like Front Porch Republic. Here's an excerpt from a piece by Caleb Stegall, which was part of his commencement address to his alma mater recently:

In less poetic language, this is what I have sometimes called practicing the discipline of place. To practice this discipline is to believe that to suffer one’s place and one’s people in the particularity of its and their needs is the primary basis for finding love, friendship,and an authentic, meaningful life. This is nothing less, I would argue, than the key to thepursuit of Christian holiness, which is the whole of the Christian adventure: to live in love with the frailty and limits of one’s existence, suffering the places, customs, rites, joys, and sorrows of the people who are in close relation to you by family, friendship, andcommunity—all in service of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is best experienced directly.

Now, what am I saying? Does this mean that I think you should always stay in one place,that you cannot be called elsewhere, or that you ought to forever limit your own horizons.No. I am neither foolish nor naïve enough to think that this is either possible or even agood thing. What it does mean is that the human heart, your heart, will never flourishand blossom if it is forever pining after the next thing, or captured by the false promise ofsomething better just out of grasp, always seeking satisfaction somewhere other thanwhere it is. Rather, it is that marriage between the endless internal horizon of your heartand the limited, restrained, concrete life of geography and community that has borne themost delightful and satisfying fruits of human history. So cast down your bucket where you are.

This is at once the most radical and the most conservative thing you can do with your life.Yet you are heading out into a very conventional, middling, controlled world. Oh, they will tell you that their marches for progress and rights are daring, that they are radical.Or they will tell you that their religious revivals are conservative, that they are the moralcenter. You will hear it all, but the truth is that for the most part, people are in the grips of a boring, lifeless ideology of personal fulfillment, choice, and upward mobility. We live in a society of tourists—and if tourists have one thing in common it is this—that theyare not at home.

Many if not all of you are off to college somewhere to further your education. This is nota bad thing, and may become a very good thing for you, but I am here tonight with awarning. The world of higher education is a strip mining operation, plain and simple, andyou will become the raw resource being mined. This is the result of a system designed todiscover and refine the most meritorious among you and ship you off to whatever spot inthe world you will be most “productive.”

You will hear over and over and over again, in many different forms, that nothing must get in the way of making the most of your social and economic opportunities. No ancientbonds of tradition must hold you back (look to the Future, they will say); no loyalties toyour home, to the place of your memory and your belonging must interfere (you can be aJayhawk anywhere, they will say); no sentimental attachment to those who havebefriended and loved you can count (think of all the diverse experiences you will miss,they will say).

I say, resist! Resist the spirit of the age. It does not have your welfare in mind.


Number 3 Son spearheaded the effort yesterday morning (while I was in town earning keep.) Looks and tastes great!

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

We went to Mass in the morning-the kids doing some school work in the car on the way (it is a 35 mile trip.) Came home. I worked on a new chicken tractor, we put a picnic shoulder on the grill. After lunch, two of the boys and daughter slaughtered and plucked two chickens, which I then butchered. One son finished up the chicken tractor while I took another up to McBee to buy a bale of hay. The animals got fed, the cow got milked, and we sat down to dinner.

And boy what a dinner! That bbq'd picnic shoulder was fabulous. (Mrs. Curley had marinated it and continually basted it while on the grill. This is how to cook a shoulder.)

I commented on how well we eat. I said I bet we eat better than anyone we know. Then I also commented on how hard we all work. Number Two Son said it was worth it to eat like this. (I am glad he thinks so.)


We have been saying parts or all of the rosary in Latin these past weeks. First we did it just to learn the prayers in Latin, but it has caught on. Number Three Son told me it helps him concentrate on the mysteries. I can't get away with saying an 'Ave' in English without some looks from the kids. Amazing how some of the kids have better pronunciation of the Latin than I do (even though I took 3 years of it way back.)

Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Saturday evening (just at dusk) I am heading out to fill the car with gas and pick up some 'expired' beer down the street, when I hear a strange low guttural sound from Mama pig. As I go to investigate, I suddenly see that ALL the goats are out. They have forced a hole on the back side of their pen and are happily munching on some greenery. I call for help and head over.

By the time I get there, all but one of the goats has scrambled back into their pen. "Johnny" is still out, and since I am not the most popular guy with our goats (I cut their nails, chase them off the pig food, the garden, etc.) I wait for Number 2 daughter so I don't scare him off. Sure enough, she just walks over and grabs him, and we put him back in.

By this time Mrs. Curley is out as are my top (by age) three sons. The sons go to patch the fence and I decide to head out again. But just then I remember I was originally alerted by a strange sound from Mama Pig. Mrs. Curley is the closest, so I ask her to check.

Mama Pig is stuck in a tire .... Background: the pigs have rubber tubs for water. They are easy to tip over, so we get old tires from the recycling center and wedge the rubber tubs into the hole in the center of the tires. A determined hog can still tip it and still get the tub out of the tire, but it takes a lot more work.

Mama Pig must have gotten the tub out of the tire, then put her head through the hole, and somehow her front legs also. She was not happy.

So ..... Number One Son and I went in and slowly tried to work the tire back, the idea is that it will be easier to ease if off her hind quarters than to get it over an agitated hog's head. Progress was slow with Mama becoming increasingly unhappy, especially at the tire can't be too pleasant as we try to ease it past her full teats. Finally she has had enough and runs.

We decided that we would simply go and hang onto the tire. When Mama ran, we would hang on and pull it off. We tried it. We didn't get it off, but simply enraged Mama Pig. She came after us (very dangerous), and we retreated out of the pen.

Mrs. Curley suggested trying again, but this time lubricating her up first.

So we got some canola oil, and from outside the pen I poured it on her in proximity to the tire. Still outside the pen, I leaned over and grabbed hold of the tire. Then Mama tried to run ... the tire slipped off.

You never know what's going to change the schedule and interrupt plans around here.

Oremus pro invicem!

PS .... Oh yes, I forgot to mention, we are now off store milk. Our Jersey's milk is great!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

So, yesterday afternoon I am in the middle of butchering a hog and I hear "Uh Oh!!!!". Mrs. Curley tells me the chest freezer has cut off and there is a funny smell. Uh Oh!

Sure enough, the compressor is not going and there is a funny smell. Mrs. Curley thinks its freon.

Fortunately, the unit from Sears, is still under warranty. So I call and am told: "Sorry for the inconvenience. A service technician will be out between 3:00 and 5:00 PM on May 26th."

I say, "I have to wait a week?"

"Sorry for the inconvenience, sir. But we only service your area on Tuesdays, and tomorrow is already booked."

Can you believe it? I complained that this part of the warranty needs to be explained during the purchase, that is that service technicians are only available in my area on Tuesdays-and I better plan my appliance breakdowns well in advance so I can get the nearest Tuesday. (And they want me to buy extended warranties? I think not.)

So after a few more phone calls and 'call elevations', I get put on the waiting list for today.

Then I hear the news ... the freezer has cut back on. The smell seems to be gone.

Now, just to give you perspective: when this all happened, we were just finishing up the first half of the hog, the second half being on ice. With the freezer now on, (I put a thermometer in to ensure it was holding temp.) we decided to go ahead-after all how long could I keep the hog on ice in the bathtub?

So a ham or so into the other side, Mrs. Curley tells me she smells it again when putting some meat in the freezer. Daughter who is helping Mrs. Curley pack the meat says, holds up the marker she is marking the meat packages with and says, "I only smell this magic marker!" And turns out, that's all we were smelling too! (the compressor cutting out must have simply been part of its cycle.)

I am embarrassed to call Sears and cancel the service call. (But I am glad I learned about how the warranty works.)

Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekly (or so) update

Lots been happenin'. Picked up a couple Duroc/Tamworth cross piglets this weekend. One for the herd and one for the freezer come the fall. I like red pigs. Will get a picture up soon.

We also slaughtered a hog this weekend with friends. And then, the weather was so good (44 F when I got up this morning) that we slaughtered another this morning. Butcher later today.

Speaking of pigs ... we celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago and Mrs. Curley & Number 3 Son worked out a beautiful cake, pictured here.

Next we have a bowl of sugar snap peas from the garden. We've been having them with dinner all week. More to come. Beans are up as is the zucchini. We have more to plant, including a field of peanuts this week. We've (not me) been eating our onions too. Collards and the thinned beets are going to the pigs.

Here's a picture of our last goat moments after birth a week or so ago. I think it is the last of the spring.

And the most important happening in the last week was our youngest receiving her First Holy Communion on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

Life is good. God has blessed us abundantly.

Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Update on the Communion in the hand issue discussed below: The Man with the Black Hat discussed this several days ago as it arose in Texas. Here is his take after some research:

You see, the multiple options notwithstanding, Catholics of the Latin rite are ENTITLED to communion on the tongue, but are merely permitted communion in the hand. This bishop's attempt to restrict it is illicit -- that is to say, it is unlawful. He has no authority to restrict that which a higher authority allows. Even if he has an excuse. Even if he likes the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from people blissfully following one's every official utterance.

I haven't been keeping up with the computer, so I didn't realize this was going on elsewhere.


New goat kid today Birth just happened a few minutes ago. This will be the last of the season.

One of our free-range roosters landed in the dog kennel today. Our dog (collie/spaniel mix) broke its wing-probably trying to play with him-and then (the dog) started crying-which alerted us. I hope this isn't the start of any bad habits (on the part of our dog or our roosters).....

Am getting more milk now. I've figured it out, and the cow has figured out that I have figured it out.

The boys weren't serving Mass on Sunday so we decided to get an early Mass at another parish (our parish only has one Sunday Mass at 10:00 AM). Not a great idea. The priest announced that we were all to receive Holy Communion in the hand due to the flu thing. I have never received Holy Communion by hand in my life-and neither has Mrs. Curley or the kids-and I wasn't about to now. We were some of the last to receive. When we did receive on the tongue (the priest did not try to confront us in Communion line) Mrs. Curley told me (I didn't notice) that there were lots of gasps and whispering. Guess we won't be too welcome there. That wasn't the only thing. Their 'vacation Bible school' was being held at and jointly with the Episcopal parish. Am grateful the the blessings we have now.

Can you imagine if there had been a confrontation over Holy Communion. I could announced that not only would I only receive on the tongue, but I was simply a poor swine farmer! What a scene that would have been.

Oremus pro invicem!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Money-quote on let-down

From The Family Cow by Dirk van Loom:

People were aware of some "let-down" process long before hormones were known. All kinds of gimmicks and props and rituals have been used to bring it on strong. For thousands of years it was suggested the calf had to be present at milking time. If you didn't have a live calf a stuffed one might do. Or the milker would don a calf skin.

Then there was (and still is in some parts of the world) a practice of insulflation to encourage let-down. While one person milked another blew air or water into the cow's rectum.

I explained all this to the owner of our local feed store. He said he wouldn't want to be the one blowing the air. I pointed to my son and commented, "What do you think he's for?"


More office work this morning (Requiem Press still lives in a weak economy), but later if the rain holds up, I will work on some chicken/turkey housing and possibly process a couple roosters who have come of age.

Oh yes, and we have a game hen sitting on some fertile eggs. A couple more weeks and we will have some totally free-range chicks floating around.

Oremus pro invicem!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


That is, how it applies to cows and milking...We've had some trouble milking the cow. For one, we didn't up her feed before she calved because we didn't know when she was due. So this offsets full production. For two, we are just getting the hang of milking (and she us.) So weren't doing so well. But there is a third factor I theorized, but was proven this morning. Letdown. She was holding back her milk for the calf. (We have not separated them yet. We just take whatever milk the calf doesn't.) This morning we got out there just as the calf was trying to nurse. I shooed the calf and milked.....letdown!!!! She couldn't help it, the milk had already been let down. We got twice as much as ever before.

We haven't started drinking it yet-that will come next week, but have been feeding it to one of the pigs getting ready for butcher. (And by the way, I am not the only milker. Yesterday I was earning keep in the city and Number 1 son had to do the evening milking. He did a good job.

Now to the garden. Not everything is in. We still have more beans, squash, tomatoes, eggplant, and lots of peanuts to plant, but we are not behind. So far the peas have come in well. Beets, cabbage, onions, collards, Jerusalem artichokes, cayenne peppers, tomatoes (2 plants) and some zucchini and beans are all up (in various stages of development.) We already harvested the radishes. Most went to the beasts, as did the thinned beet greens and collard greens. But I tell you, we are working hard.

Still have a barn to do, a pig pen to construct as well as building something for the turkeys ... they are just about ready to leave the brooder, as are our meat birds. Better get back to work.

I will try to supply more pictures soon. We have them (and videos, just not much time.)

Oremus pro invicem!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

From an American Conservative article in March '09 about SC governor Mark Sanford:

Though he describes his childhood as happy, Sanford’s adolescence was touched by tragedy. When he was a junior in high school, his father was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. When he died five years later, the Sanford family buried him under a pair of oak trees overlooking a river, according to his wishes. Mark built the casket. He says,

"You hammer the nails closed, you carry it out there in the back of the pickup to a certain part of the farm. You lower the thing down there. You and your brothers do it on your own, and then grab shovels. We say a little prayer, fill the grave, walk back up to the house. It was an intensely personal experience that really hit home for me: you ain’t taking any of this stuff with you."

Similar to my wishes, although I don't have an oak tree or a river to be buried near. I want an old-fashioned wake here at the homestead. I want people eating, talking, and drinking in the back room while others take turns in a vigil praying for my soul in the den where my body lay (on dry ice-no embalming for me!) in a homemade casket. After transport to and from the funeral Mass I want to be buried on our homestead where the daily view of my grave by my loved ones will prompt numerous prayers for my poor soul. I want my sons to lower my casket and shovel the dirt. This is the way it should be done.

Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, May 04, 2009

English Martyrs

How could I neglect such a favorite feast? I will let my posts from the past (Here's a digest of them ) about these heroic soldiers of Christ speak for me today. I thank a commenter on one of these older posts today of reminding me. If you want to know more about them, one book is our own Witnesses to the Holy Mass and other sermons. It can be ordered here. Read an excerpt here.

Oremus pro invicem!

Milking ...

I find homestead chores are taking up most of my time these days. This is not a bad thing. I do miss posting daily and substantially, (there are plenty of stories to tell), but real work calls. Just a short update here ....

Piglets are growing and prospering (11 of 12 survived). I visited a fellow hog-raiser on Tuesday and learned how to castrate piglets. It looks just like it reads, but it is good to see it done in person before trying at home. I will keep a couple piglets, but plan to sell most as feeders by the end of May.

I mentioned turkeys briefly before .... We ordered 20, but only 13 survived the first 48 hours, so the hatchery replaced the 7. We received these this past week. The first set of turkey is ready to leave the brooder, as are our meat birds (some Cornish X hens and some large breed roosters). Much work to do as neither has a place to go.

Milking shed has most of its walls now and is partially roofed. Still much work to do, but we now have a place to milk. The new calf is indeed a heifer. If all goes well with milking, we will keep her.

Milking has been rough to start, but I am getting the hang of it. We are now milking her out twice a day while still keeping the calf on her. This gives us some, and introduces us to the milking schedule (we need it more than the cow), and still gives the calf a strong start without the calf over-milking. I'm still learning this milking thing, but somehow I feel different now that I have done it (?).

We still have one goat that has not kidded yet. We will begin selling some goats soon too.

The garden is looking pretty good in general. I planted zucchini and beans last week. We have more to go. I have a concern on some sections of the garden with some yellowing going on. I am not sure what the cause is. We have many peanuts to plant this week. I hope to get the boys on it.

I am way behind on office work and regular household fixits, so that's it for today. God is good!

Oremus pro invicem!