Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The final post.

I don't know if anyone is still following this blog since it's been so long since I posted here, but I'm gonna make a final post anyway.

Throughout those years of layoff's, unemployment, and bankruptcy, we refinanced the house, along with a loan modification. After a couple years of dealing with it, we took a long and hard look at where we stood with the house. The interest rate was much lower, but the modification had taken us back to square one on the loan. We had paid 13 years on the house, basically for nothing. All of those years didn't count at all.
 We talked for well over a month, and decided to simply relinquish the house to the bank and walk away. It was a very hard decision, but we decided that it was for the best. Besides the issue with the house, we really didn't have time to care for the property anymore. Lisa works and goes to school, and I work six days a week at the farm. One day off a week simply wasn't enough time to take care of things there, and also try enjoying life by doing other things. Three weeks before Christmas, we made a huge change and moved into a twinplex that belongs to my boss.

 So now, I not only work for this man, but I'm also a tenant. Honestly, it has more perks than staying at the house. The rent is much less expensive, I live literally 100 yards from the west corn field at the farm, and we're four miles closer for Lisa's school and work. I'm already the rental maintenance man, so if anything breaks, I get paid to fix my own stuff. I get paid to plow the snow of my own driveway, and to mow my own grass, both with the owner's equipment. Our gas bill for December was 1/4 of what it would have been at the house, and the electric bill was almost half. This really was a smart move for us. Yes; it's very sad to leave everything behind; but we made the decision to move on and start over.

The farm still keeps me busy six days a week. I've not only picked the majority of the 20 acres worth of field corn, but I've bagged it on the ear and shelled non stop for the past six weeks. We decided to not use the corn crib this season, so every bit of it goes into 50lb bags. It seems that it will never end, but it will. The market takes 750lbs each, ear and shelled, once a week or more; along with 25-30 bales of straw a week. Add that to my duties at the market in the mornings, and any maintenance work that comes up at the 22 rentals, and I'm one really, really busy guy. Even if we were still at the house, I wouldn't have time for all of the things that we did just a few years ago that inspired this blog. I miss it a lot, but someday I will get back to all of the things that I was doing.

 I guess this is the part where I say goodbye to the blog, and to those who had read and followed through my adventures. I'm not done. I'm merely on hold for a while. Until then, love what you do and do what you love.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

 Well; here it is, September 1st of 2013 and I haven't written a post here in over a year. It has been a long and brutal time since I last posted.

 Throughout all of the layoffs I have had, we experienced financial problems that kept growing; so we had no choice but to file bankruptcy. We were luckily able to keep the house, but we lost our SUV along with the other bills we had acquired. Bankruptcy was something I did not want to do, but we had no choice.

 I did love the farm job, but face it, it was less than half of the pay I was used to as a pipe fitter. I took it at the time because it was an income, and I didn't want to sign up for unemployment again. I worked six days just because it was more hours, but it still wasn't enough to catch up. I stuck with it while still looking for something else, but the options out there were pretty slim for a long time. I stuck with it until mid September.

 I believe it was September 29th, when my mom was having some pain in her back that wasn't going away. She couldn't get into her doctor for at least another week, so my sister took her to the emergency room to find out what it was. The doctor who did her CATscan gave us the bad news. It was cancer. Stage 4 colon cancer that had gone to her liver. The prognosis wasn't good.

 When she went home a few days later, she just quit. Quit shopping, quit doing things she loved (crocheting, sewing) and that was it. My dad's dementia went downhill, and they needed help. My sister was there as often as she could be with having a 7 year old, but it wasn't enough. I left the farm job to be there for her; at first every other day. As she got worse, we had hospice care for her at home; and I stayed around the corner with my uncle for nearly a month so I could be there every day. Mom made it to her 70th birthday in February, but passed on March 19th. It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life.

 When it was all over, I came home and looked for work. Once again, I found nothing. I got the same old answers I got before-"Over qualified". I didn't care if I was; I needed a job. I had applied for a job at a local market down the street to work in their produce department, but found out they had hired someone else with experience a few days later. I was disappointed, but kept looking. A few weeks later they called me early in the morning. Not to work in the market, but on their farm. I took the job and started the same day.

The pay is MUCH better than where I was last year, and there is a lot more to it than just farm work. The owner has a lot of rental properties, so we (myself and two other guys) take care of them, along with the farm work and putting away the bulk foods when orders come in at the market. There's nothing quite like starting your day tossing 50lb bags of flour, sugar, oats, etc.

 So far, the job is going great and I actually look forward to it when I get up. The only problem I have so far is the commute. I just can't wrap my brain around only driving 2.5 miles to the market or 4.1 to the farm. *laughing* I still insist on getting up two hours before time to clock in. All of those years in construction still have me in the same habits. Ah well. More time for coffee and online reading.

 I wish I had more to write, but I simply don't. There was no money for the garden this spring, so we didn't have one. The chickens and ducks are gone, and I sold their pens and houses. We haven't done anything homestead related in over a year, and I miss it dearly. Hopefully in the spring of next year, things will be back to somewhat normal and I can start all over again.

 There are more stories to share, but I'll leave those for another time. I just figured that I would come here and do my best to explain to those that still may be following, why I have been absent for so long.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Safety first!

 A few days ago, a family came to the farm to pick strawberries. It was a mother, 3 daughters (roughly my age bracket), and grandchildren. They all had a great time picking together in the fields.

 I was at the market building at lunch when they walked out, and the mother said that she was cut on a piece of wire or something in the field. She had a cut maybe 2 1/2" long on the outside of her right ankle. It wasn't a deep gash, but enough to bleed more than just a scratch. The market isn't finished yet, and there are very few supplies of any kind inside, so there was no first aid kit available. I walked to the car and grabbed the large kit that is in there year round, and was able to clean, prep, and bandage her ankle.

 The women were all very thankful, but somehow surprised that I carried a first aid kit in my car. They found it rather odd. They all thanked me, and the employees at work told me that I was hero of the day. I got a good laugh about that, but it also reminded me how ill prepared most people really are.

 Maybe it's because I have more of a prepper mindset, but carrying a first aid kit just makes sense to me. It's practical. Mine not only carries bandages and such for cuts and other accidents, but I also carry cough & cold meds, ibuprofen, aspirin, sting-kill, antibacterial soap & lotion, sunscreen, and anything else that would be useable as a totally portable medicine cabinet. While I can't say we use the kit "all the time", we are in it quite often. Lisa fell while we were fishing a few days ago, and we were able to get her cleaned and bandaged up. Because we were sitting at the lake in direct sun, we used the sunscreen from the kit. It's been a very wise thing to have.

 Not only do I have the one in the car year round, but I also carry a smaller version in my lunch box, and a small tin of bandaids in my pocket at all times. That little one has come in handy out in the fields many times already. A few times for us guys out there getting misc cuts, and once for a customer whose toddler fell and scraped his knee on a rock in the back strawberry fields. Again, they've been as practical as the large car kit.

 Everyone should have a first aid kit in their car. Everyone. Think about it, make your own and put it in the car. Even a small one in the glove compartment could save the day and make you a hero too!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

 I'm absolutely loving this job. I get up at 5am, make coffee, pack my lunch, get dressed; and sit here on the web watching the sun rise through the window. We start work at 7am, normally in the strawberry fields; but this will be the last weekend for people getting them pre-picked. After today, they will be pick-your-own only. The crop was early this year due to the unusually warm and sunny weather in May, so here it is June 9th and they're nearly finished already.

 It's interesting to me to watch the place growing as I start working there. They've operated for years with 2 farms. (one main farm and the other a large plot). Last year, another local grower sold out because his family didn't want to continue the business; and we bought one of their plots. That plot is now where a HUGE portion of the vegetables are being grown. Peppers, cabbage, corn, and tomatoes are all there. We spent the last 2 afternoons (1:00 to 6 or 7:00 planting peppers there; averaging about 100 flats per tractor X 2 crews.

 Also, at Farm 2 where the berry fields are, they built the new market store. Everything will be sold there other than you-pick red and black raspberries, which are at the main farm. (Farm 1) If they get the same business there that they get for strawberries, it will be a crazy place to be! Yesterday alone, we counted 51 cars there picking their own berries, and somewhere close to the same driving in to buy some pre-picked. I NEVER thought they sold that many berries! It's crazy to me to see how busy they get. Every day I'm more amazed. I can't wait to see the new market building finished and this place in full swing.

 I have a partial list of what is grown and sold on the farm. I know there are others, but I can't remember them all:
  Strawberries; red, purple and black raspberries; blueberries, blue lake and half runner beans; bi color sweet corn; canning and Italian paste tomatoes; medium hot, banana hot, yellow sweet, green, Cubenbelle, and jalapeno peppers; canteloupe; watermelon;eggplant;onions;summer and winter squash;okra;collard greens; crowder peas,cabbage, and lima beans.

  I've been working between 8 and 11 hours a day during the week, and 8-10 on Saturdays. He needs the help, and I need the hours right now. I come home filthy and exhausted, but it's a different kind of tired than from 8 hours of wrenching pipe like I have for 16 years. This is a worn out from physical labor tired; where pipe fitting was not just physically tired, but mentally exhausted. Dealing with other trades, job schedules, general contractors, parts warehouses, etc adds a lot of stress....and now that's gone. I go home dragging my ass, but feeling good about it. Like I've accomplished something. Like I've done something important.

 Yesterday at lunch, I was sitting outside in the shade; and a man who was picking berries walked up to me and asked to shake my hand. He said thank you for the hard work and giving him and his family the opportunity to come enjoy the farm. THAT made me feel incredible. THAT is why I love doing this.

 Time to go to work. I'll get those pics up as soon as I have more time.



Sunday, June 3, 2012's re-opened!

For quite a while, I had this blog completely closed and deleted. Due to some personal issues and other things going on, my heart and head just weren't into blogging at all. Luckily I archived all of the new posts just in case I decided to return to it, and well, I have.

 For the first time in 13 years at this house, we decided to not have a garden. Both of us love gardening, but at the rate it was growing every year; it became overwhelmed and frankly; too much of a priority. Even the chickens and ducks are gone for this year. We have, of course, left the blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and grapes; but there is nothing else here this year. We decided to take the year off to relax and concentrate on us as a couple, and at enjoying ourselves.

 We've spent nearly all of our spare time fishing. We first went out the first week of April, and found a spot with awesome crappie fishing. Lisa REALLY got into it, almost more than myself. We spent every spare hour at this spot for a few weeks, putting over 200 fish in the freezer. After 2-3 weeks of heavy pressure, the crappie were done, and we went after bass and bluegill. Again, most of May was spent fishing. Weekends, nights, and weekdays after work. We fished (and still are) at every single opportunity.

Now that I mentioned work, that's a whole other story. We were working steady up until mid-March, then things started to slow down. Eventually it got to where we were only working 2-3 days a week, then one day, then nothing. Yep. Laid off again. That was the last week of March. No more work, period. He had nothing new coming up until possibly July.

 At first, I sat at home or went fishing; looking for work everywhere in the trade and any type of construction. I once again filed for unemployment, but they were dragging their feet. I went places, called, e-mailed, and nothing. I was determined to find work and was close to flipping burgers rather than collect unemployment.

 Then, a little over a week ago, I was going fishing during the day at a lake just 10 minutes northeast of here. I noticed a sign on the side of the road at a local farm market "Now hiring full time regular and part time seasonal workers". I turned around, drove in, and got to speak to the mother of the owner. She didn't have any applications, but took my name and number, saying she would have her son call me back. I left there and went fishing, thinking it would be a job that I just might actually like.

 I didn't hear anything that day, so I called the next day. I got an answering machine, and again left my name and number, expressing my interest in the job. Again, nothing. I didn't hear back. I called a second time a few days later, but the line just rang. No machine. I was disappointed and just let the idea go, and went fishing over the weekend.

 Last Monday, I decided to give it one more try and called again. I spoke to the owner, and he told me to start the next day at 7am. I was pretty excited, and Lisa was happy that I found work. I found it funny and ironic that the very same day, Ohio decided to deposit my first unemployment check. I laughed a bit, and sat out work clothes for the next morning.

 That morning, I was at the farm bright and early. I met the owner, and we went back to a field with a few other people. He asked if I had ever picked strawberries before, and I laughed. "Yea I think so. I grow my own". We picked berries till lunch, and I hoed weeds the rest of the day.  He asked if I had ever hoed before, and I laughed again. "Yea, since I was about 6 ". That night I was dead tired. I think I was in bed about two minutes before I passed out cold. I normally wake up at least once through the night, but I sure didn't that night.

  On Friday, only 2 of us came in because of rain. I had to go fix some plastic over plant rows that the wind had blown. I caught myself out there that day in a strange moment of thought. There I was, standing in a field in the rain, soaked to the bone, covered in mud to my knees....and smiling as I looked across the fields. Isn't it funny that the year I decide to not garden, I end up working on a farm with fruits and vegetables?

Tomorrow starts my second week on the farm, and I haven't loved a job this much since I was 22 years old and started working at the gun shop. I somehow feel at home with this job. This is what I do. The pay may be less than what I made as a pipefitter, but I'm done caring about that. I'll take the things I love about this job over the stress of construction anytime. My sprinkler installation license from the state has expired, and I have no intentions on retesting. I'm done. I'll keep the tools that I can use for other things, but the ones that are pipe specific will be sold or traded off. I'm here to stay.

 One of the things I love about the place is it's history. The same family has owned and operated it since 1862. The owner now is the 6th generation on it's now 230 acres. They grow and sell strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, peas, green beans, sweet corn, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, cabbage, and a few others that I can't remember at the moment. Vegetables are sold at their in-house market, and the berries are pick your own, or also available at the market. In the fall, they do hayrides and bonfires to the public and to groups like scouts and church groups. It's a busy place.

 More to come soon. I have some pictures of the place, but I'll wait until I get more to post them all.
I *will* be back!


Friday, December 2, 2011

A true holiday inspriation

Today I thought I would make a quick post about something local. This post reveals the true spirit of the holiays, and probably the hardest working man I've even met. His name is Bill Peters, and he's mostly known for his Auburn Records label and string of bands. I honestly don't know when this man sleeps.

He has a wife and 2 teenage kids that he is constantly busy with, he helps his parents, works with the bands and record label, (recording, practices, setting up shows, going to the shows, promoting the bands, etc), goes to the big German music festivals,hosts a Friday night radio show (26 years now I believe), helps with a Halloween event that gives proceeds to charity, and now this; all while still working a full time job. I'm sure there are many things that I've missed too!

He's put together the "3rd Annual Iron Ingo Cleveland Metal Holiday Food Drive". He's gotten seven bands to play a totally free show, with only the request that attendees bring cash or food goods for donation. The proceeds go to the Cleveland Foodbank and Friends of the Cleveland Kennel. Yes you read that right. Heavy metal bands and fans getting together to help the needy, both two and four legged. The 80's had Bob Geldoff doing Live Aid and John Mellencamp doing Farm Aid, and now we have Bill doing Iron Ingo. It is truly an amazing thing. So much for that stereotype of a heavy metal fan, eh? Maybe we need an all Auburn roster cover of "Stars"?? naaaa hahaha

In out time of a shaky economy and high unemployment, more people than ever are having a hard time making ends meet, and need help. While there may be food banks all over the place, few are able to really keep up with the string of people needing help. It's people like Bill who step up to the plate and put together something like this to get them the help they deserve.

Bill is truly an inspiration with everything he does, and that's why I wanted to share this with this quick post. Check out the flyer, check out his (the record label) website, and if you're local, stop by the show! Kudo's to you Bill! You and this event are what it's all about.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Something new. A book review

In my ever increasing desire to know more about the things that interest me, I'm always reading. I read online forums, I read magazines, and I read books. Lots of books. My small library includes books on survivalism, preparedness, gardening, small scale livestock, herbal remedies, self suffiency, self reliance, and on our basic food supply in general. I'm not an educated man, but I have a strong desire to learn as much as I possibly can through reading and experience.

Every once in a while, I read that story or book that makes me say "wow". That story about some kind of real life hero, the article about the family growing a huge amount of food on a small suburban lot, or the tale of a persons fight with their town council to allow them to have a simple vegetable garden. All of these stories affect me in some form or another. Some perk my interest, some inspire me, and others make me push what I can possibly do here on one acre. My most recent read has done all of these and more. This one book has awakened me to the reality of the food we eat, and the real truths behind them.

I'm referring to "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal", by Joel Salatin. Anyone who has watched Food Inc. or some of the other documentaries on the subject may recognise his name. He's making quite a stir in the food industry with his common sense approach, even though it angers and scares the officials and (so-called) inspectors. Joel is more than a simple farmer. He's a speaker, an educator, and a giant inspiration to many like myself. This book is merely a small list of stories from his own (mis?) adventures, run-in's, wins, and losses within the administrations, officials, inspectors, and law makers that every day involve our food systems.

Generally, when people think of farms, they think of happy cows, smiling farmers, sunshine, and a big red barn. In reality, most farms are virtually devoid of people. Animals are kept indoors in big confinement cages or feedlots. Most never see the light of day until they are on their way to slaughter. Joel prefers a simple, humane, and much more common sense approach. Let pigs be pigs, cows be cows, and manure and compost are king. Unfortunately, what he wants to do gives him the perfect title for this book. Everything I want to do is illegal.

I won't go into details, or give away a lot of the book, but imagine wanting to do some things on a 600+ acre farm, and find out you aren't allowed. I'll list a few examples:

Imagine that you want to raise cattle to sell the meat. You can raise your own, but you cannot butcher them on your own property. OK, so you take them to a commercial butcher and have them processed. You bring them home in nice little packages to sell, but wait; you still can't sell them. Now because they're in packages, they are considered a processed product and you don't have the proper licenses to sell them.

How about if you are OK to butcher and sell your own chickens, but only in your home state. A friend wants to sell them at a farmers market in the adjoining state, but you aren't certified there. Your chickens have to travel 200 miles to be killed in a place with that states license, then travel another 400 miles to be packaged, then another 300 miles to the farmers market that is 150 miles from your farm.

Bacon is the most evil of all possible farm products. Even if you raise the pork, buy the ingredients yourself, and take all responsibility for it; you cannot sell it. Nobody gets in to buy the bacon, not no body, not no how. It's again a "processed" product.

Here's one that I didn't intend to share, but decided to anyway. On his search for the selling of chicken outside his state, he took some to a commercial butcher, visited, and talked with the inspector. Now, when you clean a chicken, the gall bladder is right behind the liver. There is a market for chicken livers, so they are saved. If you happen to break the gall bladder, you get this disgusting, foul smelling green bile. There's no mistaking it. When he processes his own, like many others, he's careful to not break the gall bladder for this reason. He was talking to the state inspector, when along the conveyor belt came an iced tub of chicken livers, literally floating in the green bile. The inspector said NOTHING about the bile. He just dipped a thermometer in the tub and said "more ice". So having this disgusting bile in the tub was ok, but it could not get below temperature X. Even though I don't eat chicken livers, I nearly gagged at the thought of eating one from the store.

These are just examples of many that Joel covers in this book. He goes from animal welfare to zoning, and everywhere in between. I'm aghast, disgusted, and angry at the things people must do to comply with the ridiculous regulations governing our food systems. Some may seem necessary to the average consumer, but when you see how they really operate behind the scenes, you realize how ridiculous they really are. In fact, his writing of this very book on his own property is in fact illegal by the terms of an "agricultural zone". How’s that for a big steaming pile of future compost?

This book is more than just an idea book for the farmer or urban (holy crap he's gonna say it) homesteader. It's more than just a list of things to make you think about what you are buying at the store or the butcher. It's an eye opener to the scandals behind the food industry, and how big corporate dollars make every decision. If that wasn't true, why would a 1000 chicken operation have the same exact guidelines as a 1,000,000 chicken operation? Why would inspectors care about a guy with 300 cattle more than the feedlot containing 300,000?

I'll recommend this book to everyone I know. Anyone that cares the slightest bit about what they buy or what they eat should have this on their shelf. Maybe a few that don't seem to care would have their eyes opened just a little on the reality of where there food comes from. Just maybe.

After reading this book, I'm more inspired than ever to grow in our own operations here at home. I'm researching cattle and pig raising, and plan on talking to my uncle about putting one of each at his place. I want to raise more. I want to grow more. I want to get even further away from the grocery store and the clutches of the people behind the food on the shelves and in the coolers. I want the freedom to eat what I want, that "they" want so desperately to take away from us even more than they have. Honestly, how can it be perfectly OK for me to buy a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of whiskey, and a bag of fast food, but not a gallon of raw milk? How is it possible that I can buy a giant block of “processed cheese product”, but not some delicious colby made with fresh milk? How and why is it their choice what I put into my own body?

I'll leave you with a quote from the book that may make you consider getting your own copy- " The political rationale for food safety ultimately rests in the notion that we are wards of the state. Not a free people." Really think about that statement. Are we truly free when we cannot eat what we choose?

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