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Harvest time. October 28, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silnce Dogood here. It’s a mild October day, and normally I’d be sitting out on our back deck listening to the corn talk. (The farmers in front and in back of our little cottage here in the middle of nowhere, PA, grow corn, and once it gets tall and dries out, it “talks” with every slightest breeze.) Today, however, I’m hiding in the house.

That’s because the farmers are harvesting the corn behind the house. There’s a terrible noise, and every few minutes a rhino-like, John-Deere-green creature passes in front of our deck doors, bellowing and presumably cutting down corn. This of course isn’t corn on the cob, it’s dried corn and cornstalks to make silage and sustain their milk cows through the winter.

I wonder what our poor chickens make of all this. This will be their first winter, and they love the dried corn in their scratch grains, but I doubt that they’re loving the racket that machine is making. People always tell you that country living is quiet and peaceful, but apparently they forget about the machines.

It’s something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about a move. Not to mention all the toxic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, and so on. There are plenty of upsides—we have lots of great deck-sitting days—but downsides too. Days we see toxic bubbles from farm chemicals in our stream and wonder if our well water is drinkable. Days we can’t breathe outside because of chemical application. How wonderful to live surrounded by organic farms!

‘Til next time,



The hills are alive. May 6, 2008

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading.

Our friend Ben is sitting here in the Hawk’s Haven home office, trying to concentrate on an editing assignment. But this is difficult because of what’s going on outside. No, I don’t mean the beautiful spring day just begging me to come out and relax on the deck, the greenhouse and gardens calling for attention, or the goldfinches flocking to the feeders. Our friend Ben is talking about the noise.

People think that country life is quiet, but nothing could be further from the truth. At this moment, a farmer is pulling a raucous piece of equipment through the field in front of our house. Next door, our neighbor is running his chainsaw. The neighbor on the other side is riding his mower across his yard for what seems like the third time this week. (Perhaps he’s trying to give our friend Ben, whose lawn-mowing efforts are casual at best, a subtle hint.) In the field behind our property, bull calves are lowing loudly in what sounds ominously like a “please don’t eat us” plea. And this is just the beginning.

Motorcycle cavalcades roar regularly along the tiny backroad in front of our friend Ben’s home, having discovered this scenic rural “tour route.” Rifle fire blasts frequently across our friend Ben’s synapses, as farmers practice for hunting season or actually take to the fields and woods shooting. (Our friend Ben goes around for months in terror for our deer-sized, deer-colored golden retriever Molly’s life.) Our friend Ben knows that, when the farm day is done, the farm families will take to their fields, roaring over them in groups on ATVs like some post-apocalyptic film set, though, rather than cresting the hill in order to wipe out the Hawk’s Haven family, they’re just relaxing before dark. And, of course, this doesn’t even touch on the sonic boom of the jets passing overhead, the thump-thump of the news and medical helicopters, and the relatively frequent and terrifying rat-tat-tat of the military helicopters, black and always flying in formation.

No, the country isn’t quiet. It’s no bouquet for the nose, either. Our friend Ben has to rush poor Molly back inside when the farmers are spraying toxic herbicides and other chemicals on their fields, the curious, throat-grabbing sensation of the smell making me feel like we’re being napalmed. (The poor chickens!) And of course, the stench of freshly manured fields is a sewage-like smell all its own, described by one cynical colleague as “Mennonite in Paris” after the equally stinky perfume “Evening in Paris.” (We are actually fortunate to have many Mennonite and Amish farmers in this area.) Mind you, as you know if you’ve ever smelled it, neither cow nor horse manure smells bad, per se—all that forage gives both a distinctive sweetish smell. It’s when cows, and especially pigs, have been confined in barns all winter, with their manure piled up and unable to dry out or compost, that it reeks. Agh!!! It takes several weeks for the fields to lose that spread-manure stench. Kinda hard to take when your own yard is ablaze with flowers and you want to go outside and smell them, not pig, uh, excrement. 

So what’s my point here? It’s simply this: That what country living offers is not some return to the primeval Garden. Your neighbors are still trying to make a living, and they’re doing it in a noisy, sometimes stinky, way. If you’re moving from the suburbs, the gunfire will make you think you’ve stumbled into “Deliverance;” if you’re fleeing urban life, you can console yourself with the thought that at least no robbery, vandalism, or gang fighting is involved.

Instead, what country living offers is space: Space to spread out, to free yourself. Spacious, amazing views stretching out in in every direction. Space to live your life free of neighbors’ walls and windows on every side of your home, or neighbors crashing around over your head, below your feet, and on all sides of your suspended apartment/condo cube. Space uncluttered by the endless petty restrictions of condo boards and neighborhood regulations. (What do you mean, no veggies, no chickens?!) Space to free your mind, to think, to see. To be. Our friend Ben thinks that’s worth a little pig manure.