Gobble, Gobble!

While on a break at work I received a message from Julia: “Coordinating pick up of six turkeys, raised with non-GMO feed.” Lo and behold, we’ve got Turkeys!

One fine bunch of toms!

One fine bunch of toms!

You all must know that I truly adore my wife! While many years back she was hesitant to adopt the idea of getting land this early in our lives, she is now fully on board! Julia has been the catalyst in the acquisition of all of our animals here on the farmstead and I can’t express to you how amazing it feels when I see that excitement burning in her eyes upon realizing the potential for further animal diversity. We both know that it means a deeper variety of fertility for our land, an opportunity to further our knowledge in animal care, and, in this case, the daunting task and learning experience of processing an animal by our own hands. Yes, that’s right. These birds are destined for the table (but first, the freezer).

I am definitely not a man of bloodlust. I do not look forward to “harvesting” these turkeys, but I do feel deeply that if I am to eat meat, and I do, then I should be responsible for the animal’s death, or at least be as intimately involved with the process as possible (knowing and visiting your farmer on a regular basis or even volunteering on processing day at farms that offer such an opportunity). There are many objections to this idea, and I’m not saying that this is for everyone. It is just something that is extremely important to me considering the condition of our current food system (a topic that I will explore in many future posts).

For now, we are just enjoying these amazing creatures, watching their natural behaviors, interacting with them, and learning from their presence. We have 4 toms and 2 lady birds. The females make a high pitch, single-note chirp, while the boys, of course, do their famous “gobble, gobble.” The most entertaining part is that no tom gobbles alone. They all call in unison, like a flock of birds moving as one, darting about the sky as a dynamic avian cloud.

A very handsome tom! You can tell he was ready for his close up.

A very handsome tom! You can tell he was ready for his close up.

Little lady bird.

Little lady bird.

These birds, however, are far from dynamic. The man who sold them to us said that they dressed out at 40 lbs! Jeez! I can corroborate, too, considering I had to lift them in and out of their crate in the back of our pick up. They are monsters! but very gentle though, for how enormous they have become.

They're almost as big as the boy!

They’re almost as big as the boy!

So, we have six new members in the Beacon Farmstead family (although, their stay here will not be a long one). It seems that I wake up every day with new tasks to accomplish (and new animal friends to entertain), and while life can seem a bit crazy at times, we’re all having a lot of fun (especially Judah)! If anyone is a bit stressed, all it takes is a nice forage walk with Judah and the goats, and everything seems right as rain again.

 

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Be well, folks. Talk to you soon.

The Wood Stove

It’s official: Beacon Farmstead is now heating with wood! I have to admit, it has taken us a long time to get here. One wouldn’t think that achieving such a simple concept would prove to be so complex–yet, it certainly was!

We initially started our goal to heat with wood, like so many of our projects, by doing research on-line and then obsessively scanning Craigslist.com. We first discovered a remarkable amount of free firewood posted; some in the form of a fallen tree, some that had already been cut into 18” log sections, and some already aged and split. Over a month or two, I borrowed my father-in-law’s beautiful truck several times (thanks, Randy!) and “harvested” this gloriously free wood (free with the exception of the fuel to operate the truck). I spent many hours splitting wood while Judah explored in the yard and climbed on the wood stacks with the cats.

Lumberjack Judah.

Lumberjack Judah.

It felt good! The wood was free, but so was the workout and the experience. In a funny way, as I swung the axe, if not for but a fleeting moment, I felt connected with all those ancestors who split wood before me, out of necessity, for survival, and certainly not for some suburbanite desire to be sustainable. We had no need to heat with wood. We could still pay for electric heat, but we saw the potential for using a renewable natural resource that would otherwise end up at the dump and with a bit of effort on our end, pulling it out of the waste stream, we could provide our own heat. How nifty. So we had our wood. Now, we needed a stove. Back to Craigslist.

With wood stoves you really need to find the right size stove for the right size home. We found an inexpensive cast-iron Vogelzang box stove for under $100 that would heat 800-1000 sq. ft. This seemed to be appropriate for heating the lower level of our home and we would just let the heat rise to our second story where all the bedrooms were located (we like sleeping in cooler temperatures anyway). We responded quickly and snapped up the Vogelzang from a very nice couple in a nearby neighborhood. It was quite heavy, but light enough for me to lift, although laboriously, on my own. Wood-stove: check.

Imagining I could retrofit our existing fireplace to receive a wood-stove by the sweat of my own brow, we did a little more research and found that unless it was professionally installed and inspected, in the event of a fire, our insurance would not cover the damage. After calling around, I discovered that this meant $1,000-$3,000 to install the steal-of-a-deal wood stove we purchased. So, that wasn’t going to happen and we opted out of heating with wood for that season. Dead end.

Fast forward to the present. Our current home on the farm is a mobile home, and although it has an appropriate wood-stove duct that had been installed by the previous owner, one can’t just go throwing any old wood-stove into a mobile home–they have to be mobile home approved. The Vogelzang was NOT mobile home approved. Bummer. We now needed to invest in a new wood stove and the only one we could find that was somewhat affordable AND mobile home approved was at one of our local big-box stores (I’ll let you guess which one: it starts with “H” and ends with “ome Depot”). This made it pretty easy. No having to get one shipped to our house or driving to some obscure wood-stove shop in Who-knows-where, Virginia. Great! We had another stove and one that would work for our home on the farm. Now we needed stove pipe.

The particular stove we purchased required15ft of stove pipe for proper draft which meant we needed a bunch of stove pipe (but WAY less than that $1000-$3000 promise in our old house)! This also meant we needed a number of other pieces, adapters, roof bracings and such, and we couldn’t even identify what the brand was of the existing roof/stove duct installation. While we could have ended up driving from stove shop to stove shop, we were fortunate in finding the right brand of pipe at our other local big-box store (Hint: starts with “L” and ends with….ah, you know which one). Once we had all the pieces, the stove was up and running in a matter of days.

The tricky parts were as follows:

Getting the stove outside for the first three burn-off fires (this gets the factory chemically smell off the stove and cures the paint without stinking up your house, but boy that stove is heavy!).

Watching the smoke rise on the first of the three introductory burns.

Watching the smoke rise on the first of the three introductory burns.

Fireside chat.

Fireside chat.

Installing the air intake (this entails creating a 5 1/2 in hole in your home and running a tube through it that connects to your stove for proper air flow).

Ready...

Ready…

Set...

Set…

Judah!

Judah!

Finally, installing the stove pipes in the house and on the roof and securing them with roof bracings (this was possibly the most challenging part to do with a 3 1/2 year old wanting me to look at what he is doing down below every 30 seconds while I’m standing at the edge of our roof adjusting 8ft. of heavy insulated pipe and a bit afraid of heights to boot).

Drilling in sheet metal screws to secure stove pipes.

Drilling in sheet metal screws to secure the stove pipes.

Installing the insulated stove pipes.

Installing the insulated stove pipes.

One section of pipe...

One section of pipe…

Two sections of pipe...now we're in business!

Two sections of pipe…now we’re in business!

Even with all of that, the stove is now installed and working properly! And the best part is that we were able to do it all ourselves (and do it well). Learning to control the stove and operate it with efficiency is a whole other story, one which we will share with you on another day.

We have some cold days approaching, so stay warm, y’all. I know we will!

Hot stuff!

Hot stuff!

Happy New Year!

They say that somewhere between 80-99% of New Year’s resolutions result in failure. This happens for many reasons ranging from unrealistic goals to the actual physiological inability of the prefrontal cortex to process new goals while managing the status quo. Our family has been quite successful in accomplishing our resolutions over the last few years and after some thought on the matter I now believe that I know why.
The first reason our family has been successful with our resolutions is that we utilize a very powerful gift that many people in our culture possess: procrastination! I mean come on! Who in their right mind is going to shackle themselves to new diet and exercise routines on the heals of 30+ days of holiday binging? It’s just poor form. We never start our new year’s resolutions on New Year’s Day. EVER. Like last year, my wife (Julia) and I are once again doing the paleo-based Whole30, which is a sort of cleanse for us in order to re-awaken our nutritional goals and refocus our view on what we are putting into our bodies and why. The premise of the Whole30 is quite simple:

Eat meat, seafood, eggs, tons of vegetables, some fruit, and plenty of good fats from fruits, oils, nuts and seeds. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re totally natural and unprocessed…do not consume added sugar of any kind, real or artificial…do not consume alcohol in any form, not even for cooking… no tobacco products of any sort… do not eat grains…do not eat legumes…do not eat dairy… do not eat white potatoes…do not eat carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites…and no paleo-fying baked goods, desserts, or junk food (whole30.com).

Just eat real, whole foods. For us to achieve this resolution we prepare ourselves all through the month of January. We “eat down” the sweets and treats and forbidden foods that we don’t want in the house during our cleanse, we plan out every meal of the 30 days, and we start shopping for the many healthful foods we do want around, so we are empowered and prepared for success.
The other main justification for our having done so well with our resolutions is our knowledge of what I call the Rule of the Fortnight. Many studies have revealed that it takes approximately 3-6 weeks for most people to establish a new routine within their lives. I believe, from many years of personal experience, that once one reaches the 2 week marker of practicing a new habit, there is a particular level of mastery that is absorbed into one’s psyche. The “muscle memory” becomes quite strong at this point and what would have been a great temptation a week earlier seems paltry in passing from the plateau of the fortnight. Knowing that the excruciating torture of change will be heavily mitigated in just two weeks is a very empowering concept.
Furthermore, Julia and I are not doing the Whole365–we’re doing the Whole30! So many people have already reneged on their resolutions by mid-January due to the daunting thought of maintaining new habits for an entire year. I cannot blame them. Our family’s New Year’s resolutions are bite sized. We enter into our 30 days knowing full well that at the end we will be stronger for it, and as a result, more likely to continue on with that fortitude into the next 30 days. Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Who could disagree? So too, the journey can only continue with a 34th step, and a 238th step, and so on. Preparing one’s self for each step along the way is the way.
So, my friend: if you’ve already given up, already fallen short of your resolve, have no fear–it’s still January! Dig your heels in (or just get comfy on the couch), grab a notebook, and write yourself a plan of action. Whether you’re trying to drop a vice, or you’re attempting to incorporate new, healthful habits in your life, try seeing the trees for the forest this time. Take it one moment at a time. Breathe. And be present in each moment. Humans are habitual beings, and making change is monumental. Summon your strength and your patience, for February is on it’s way. But worry not, my friend. We must only make it through a fortnight. I’ll see you on the other side.

Josh.