Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lunatic Tours!

As “wanna-be” homesteaders, we are blessed that we currently live just a few hours away from Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms. Joel is widely known for his successful beyond organic, grass-based farm as well as his ability to teach and mentor aspiring farmers. We have visited his farm three times (so far). Two of the visits were of the lunatic tour variety, where Joel or Daniel Salatin take groups on hayride tours to see and discuss the farm’s practices. Today, I’m sharing a small snapshot into Polyface Farms through pictures and reflections of our tour-based visits at Gnowfglins

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dealing with the New Age Atmosphere in the Health Food World

In a local health food store a customer browsing around stops and asks, “What is the difference between the red and white quinoa, please?  I’m aware they are different varieties, but how exactly are they different?”
“Well, I don’t know about all that, but I can tell you that red relates to fire and as you consume it it will enrich that part of your spirit. Since white is more neutral and earthy it will relate to the earthy part of your spirit” the store employee stated.
“Um, thanks, I was wondering more about nutritionally, if there was any difference, though?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
This was an actual conversation that took place between my husband and a worker at a health food store in our town. It is increasingly common, especially in the health food culture, to come across those of different belief systems, particularly of the New Age variety. It can be awkward and embarrassing, to those that maintain a biblical worldview. Navigating New Age values with grace and understanding is important in order to not be swayed by beliefs that oppose Christianity but also in order to be a light and a witness to them.


There are many wonderful reasons to eat real food. It tastes better. It is better for you. It is environmentally friendly. It is sustainable. It is healing. It is helping localize the economy. The list can go on. However, depending on the worldview you subscribe to, all of these things may be considered from very different perspectives.
Many that prescribe to New Age or Eastern belief systems may cite being one with nature, receiving good karma for stewarding the earth well, or being gentle to each creature on their journey of life as beliefs. Animism, or the belief that animals and even nonliving things have souls, is often the root of such beliefs.
As Christ followers, we can agree with some of the sentiment concerning stewardship of the natural world, however the root is very different.  We honor the earth and take care of it as well. However, we do this because God’s first command to Adam was to fill the earth and to rule the creatures in it. We do that to honor God, though, and to treat creation and animals the way they were intended. We also strive to honor Him by feeding our bodies in ways that are healthy so they can be used as He intended.
When we have a solid worldview in place we can view the New Age culture from the "solid rock of Christ" and not become ensnared into a belief system that is contradictory to a Biblical worldview.

Being an Ambassador of the Kingdom of God     


When we do encounter those that have a New Age belief system in the health food world, we need to respond with humility.  Prayerfully interacting with others and sharing our own beliefs in a loving, nonthreatening way can begin to sow seeds that may lead them to Christ.  From my experience, debating with those of very different worldviews is often ineffective, and a gentle, humble approach is received much more positively.
Sharing can be quite natural and simple when talking about your own life or stories.  Talking about the miracle of an animal birth, watching seedlings grow, or seeing a family member healed by whole foods can all open the door to talk about God’s amazing design for creation.  Jesus was well known as an excellent storyteller and when we share testimonies that involve everyday things in the health food world and show the Lord’s work in it, we can easily and inoffensively witness to our neighbors that don’t yet know Him.

How have you handled the New Age atmosphere in the health food culture?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Humbled and Honored

I've been selected as a contributing writer for GNOWFGLINS! I have taken a few of Wardee's classes and when I first discovered her blog in 2009 it started my family and I on the journey to transforming our eating, which eventually led us to our current dreams.

You can see the post introducing all of the new contributing writers here! I'm so excited to be a part of this wonderful team and have been enjoying getting to know the other writers.

Meet Our New Contributing Writers

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dealing With Death On the Farm

Our son Caleb, age 3, making friends

One thing that I’ve thought about extensively as we prepare to farm is how I will deal with inevitable animal deaths and parenting my children through that process.  I want to handle farm death in a realistic and honest way that isn’t scary or traumatizing for my family.  I want our children to know where their food comes from and I don’t want to hide the fact that there was a death in order that we might eat.  I think it honors the animal and the process more completely that way.

I thought I would share some points about handling death on a farm that might be helpful for anyone, but especially when dealing with children.

1.  Death is normal and natural.  In the book of Ecclesiastes it is written that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the heavens.  A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal” (v. 1-3a).   Our time on earth is not infinite.  We are made for a time and season.  God said in Genesis 3:19 after sin was introduced into the world that “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Death is part of the cycle for plant, animal, and human and it is normal.

2. Killing is part of eating.  In order to eat meat, an animal must be killed.  Explaining to a child (or to ourselves!) that in order to derive nutrition from meat, the animal must be slaughtered is helpful.  This is a simple cause and effect relationship that makes complete sense to a child and is often accepted readily without trouble.  We often, especially with very young children, don’t need to go into any more detail than that!  Sheri Salatin of Polyface farms confirms this as she states
The first time my family processed chickens, I was eight years old. I think that when you start out at such a young age, there is nothing to “deal with”.  We have noticed that when families come to watch us process the chickens, parents are always more squeamish than their children. I think that innately, children don’t have a problem with killing animals for food. It’s a learned response. I never questioned why an animal had to die as a child, it was simply a way of life. If I wanted to eat meat, that was the way it is. 
3.  Honoring the animal in life and in death.   Sometimes thanking God for the animal in a simple prayer can help with our emotional response. When animals are treated well and raised in a way that honors how God created them to act and live (cows on pasture, chickens eating bugs, etc) we can see it killed knowing it lived a happy, healthy life doing exactly what it was created to do.  How fulfilling and wonderful that we could provide a wonderful life for the animals, and that they in turn, give us nutrition!

4. Don’t spend a lot of time at once killing the animals.  In Joel Salatin’s book, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, he recommends that we don’t do a lot of animal processing at one time.  When we focus on death too much it affects our psyche and emotions. Spending a few hours processing chickens is fine, but then hoeing the vegetable patch or turning the compost is helpful as doing something else keeps our perspective correct.  Staying connected to our food and being sustainable are vitally important, but we also don’t want to overly focus on the death of the animal, as it leads us to be unbalanced.  Death is a part of the process as is the animal’s birth, life, and eventually as food on our table. It should be treated as an important part of the process, but the killing is not the only part, or even the main part.

5.  Finally, we can’t be afraid of our child’s questions.  We have to be willing to talk about death as they witness it take place on a farm and answer questions honestly, while telling the truth in an age appropriate way.  Part of the reason America has become so unhealthy is because the relationship between the farm and the table has become closed off and people no longer know (or want to know!) where their food comes from.  When we open up that discussion with our children, even talking about the death of an animal, we help guide the next generation towards understanding how to grow healthy food in a way that honors the animal and God. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Polyface Farm and a Burning Question Answered

We visited Polyface Farm in April for a lunatic tour.  I highly recommend the experience if you are within a reasonable distance from Southern Virginia.  We're reading everything we can from Polyface (see my previous post with the stack of books we're working through!) as we want to model our farm using many of these principles.  Polyface prides itself in farming in a way that it heals the land and respects the design of each animal and how it works, each creature on the farm providing an important job for the whole.

Here are a couple of photos from our trip:

The "Eggmobile" which follows three days behind the cows as the sanitation crew

Joel Salatin talking about his "Pigerator Pork"

It was a crucial trip for us as we came armed with questions.  We were able to chat with Daniel Salatin, Joel's son, for a few minutes after the tour and he graciously took time to speak with us and answer some of our burning questions.

Our top concern was how much land we would need to find in order to start our farm.  In order to truly live off the land for our livelihood following this basic model, how many acres do we need? Is it possible to do it on less than 100, or even less than 50 acres?  We want to farm, but we also want to avoid the trap of accumulating massive debt and then not being able to sustain our farm later on.  We have been constantly tossing around scenarios about how we can get started in the most financially responsible way.

Daniel thoughtfully told us that really, the acreage doesn't matter as much as what type of land it was.  Is there diversity on the property? Woods?  Water?  Hills? Working with the land you find and stacking your resources and projects to match it is more important the amount.  He said that just like the rabbits and chickens work together at Polyface, the layers that follow the cows, and the pigs that compost the winter cow manure, if we stack our resources so that no project or enterprise is alone and you plan things to work together you can do it on a lot less acreage than Polyface Farm does.

We left so encouraged.  While there's so much to do in the next season to get us ready, we're one step closer and know better what type of land to look for, regardless of how large it is.  That was a huge confidence booster for us, and we so appreciate Daniel taking the time to chat with us.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


"I had a boyfriend once who liked to gamble, and I'd ride on the back of his motorcycle through the Holland Tunnel and along the New Jersey coast to Atlantic City.  Sitting at the table, watching the cards being dealt, I heard a man say that the difference between an amateur and a pro is that the pro doesn't have an emotional reaction to losing anymore.  It's just the other side of winning. I guess I'm a farmer now, because I'm used to loss like this, to death of all kinds, and to rot.  It's just the other side of life.  It is your first big horse and all he meant to you, and it is also his bones and skin breaking down in the compost pile, almost ready to be spread on the fields."

Kristin Kimball, The Dirty Life, page 272

I find that encouraging.  The challenges, the struggle to even get's all part of it.  :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Farming Prep School

Look what arrived in the mail today :)

What are your favorite "go to" farming books???