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Sunday, October 27, 2013



It was a sunny golden day and as I turned my truck onto Lonesome road and I instantly knew I was going someplace very special.  There is so much wrong with the world these days that it's hard to remain optimistic.  But then, if you are very lucky you meet people like Carie and Jarrod, a young couple I recently interviewed for some magazine articles.


The couple who are bright, funny and dedicated raises bison (AKA buffalo) as well as other heirloom livestock.  Their farm exudes not only incredible natural beauty, but a healthy peace and joy that seem largely absent from modern culture.  Because I write about people like Carie and Jarrod, individuals that take their role as environmental stewards very seriously, in my opinion I have the best ‘job' in the whole world!

On their Cherokee Valley Bison Farm Carie and Jarrod are doing things the right way.  All of the vegetables and herbs they raise and sell through a CSA are organically produced.  The hogs, chickens, turkeys and bison are grass fed and never dosed with antibiotics, steroids and god knows what else that's routinely administered to commercially-raised ‘meat' animals.  Their soil is rich and loamy.  Pastures are lush with native grasses and the animals, unaware of their ultimate fates are docile, friendly and obviously content. 

Standing just a couple feet away from the great wooly heads of America's most magnificent animals was thrilling, to say the least.  Bison are not domesticated, so they are potentially very dangerous, but secure fencing between them and me made the visit quite safe.

"A happy animal is a tasty animal," says Carie.  As a vegetarian I can't comment on the taste difference, but omnivorous friends confirm her claim.  A couple of the hogs milled around our legs demanding butt scratches.  Turkeys-- silly birds that they are-clamored around my truck admiring their reflections in the paint and the bison nonchalantly stood nursing calves, lying down chewing their cuds or watching me and my friend as we marveled at their huge presence.

Even when their livestock transition from farm to plate, their dispatch is instantaneous and humane.  Consumers of their pork, poultry or bison need not feel the guilt I frequently hear expressed by some of my non-vegetarian friends.

The serene ambiance of their farm and the success of their enterprise begs the question why others in agriculture are so reluctant to give up their dependency upon GMO grains, costly herbicides and pesticides that do poison our earth despite the claims to the contrary of the chemical corporations that produce such products.  People like Carie and Jarrod don't have fancy expensive equipment, nor do they spend their time pampering their livestock, but rather allow them to live as nature intended. The logic in this was obvious by the animals' hardy and robust vitality.

Nationally there is more demand for organically raised produce and grass-fed livestock than there is supply, yet when old Kenny finally agreed to lease his farmland that had never known such chemicals and was certifiably organic, the first thing the leasing farmer did was to spray the native grasses ("weeds") with herbicides prior to planting his GMO corn and soybeans.  Three years later, Kenny's land is essentially ruined so far as its capability to grow healthy crops that conscientious consumers want to eat and are willing to pay premium prices for.

I'm excited to share stories of people like Carie and Jarrod with readers who might not be aware of their options, both as producers and more importantly as consumers.  Like I said, I have the best job in the whole world.


11:16 am edt          Comments

Monday, October 21, 2013



After all these years this old farm is still coughing up surprises.  Since day #1 shovels of turned soil have revealed pottery and china shards, brass dog tags, the occasional coin, toys, machinery parts and lots of marbles, but probably the most surprising thing to surface was the huge circus tent stake.  I'm still scratching my head over that one.  This week, while trying to get the gardens put to bed for the rapidly-approaching winter, a cow bell surfaced. 

I'm wondering if this slightly battered old bell hung around the neck of the bovine reputed to have been chained to the pump near the barn. Rumor has it that she bolted and broke the hand pump off just below ground rendering it useless.  I found it hidden by brush and weeds and only recently sold it to a lady who planned to paint it up and use it as a garden decoration. 

One of the first projects here was to have a welder come and cut off the ragged remains of the well housing and retrofit it to receive the hand pump I've used every day since.  Finding fragments of lives past thrills me.  How often I've lain awake at night imagining scenes that might have taken place in previous centuries.

 What has been dubbed the "demo zone garden" is also yielding some surprises.  When the remnants of the yellow tile milk house foundation were razed and the area lay naked just begging to be seeded with something it seemed the perfect place for all the tins and jars and waxed envelopes of seeds saved, but not labeled.  I planted them with little fanfare and more or less forgot about them until yellow blossoms began to appear.  But what were all those vines?  I never guessed that so many of the seeds were butternut squash! Every seed must have germinated.  At first it was exciting.  Butternut squash soup, butternut squash casseroles..., you get the picture.  But after picking no less than fifty of the pretty winter staples, the thrill of discovery was gone and still there were more-and more and more!  Any person who stops by is not allowed to leave without at least one squash.  The root cellar shelves have been swept and lined with newspaper and now they groan under the weight of butternut squash of every size and shape.  Oh, yes, there are a few acorn squash and even one jumbo spaghetti squash, but mostly it's the flesh-toned hard variety for which there just aren't enough recipes.

As the weeds in the demo zone garden die down more treasures surface.  I've harvested several lovely pumpkins and thought I'd found everything, but who would have guessed that these could'a/should'a/would'a been prize-winners were hiding under some fallen tufts of tall grass.  They are each so heavy I had to transport them separately in the garden cart.  I'll definitely be saving some of these seeds to plant next year, but I'll label them.

9:24 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, October 17, 2013



Things here at the Peaceable Kingdom have been anything but peaceable lately.  In just the past week the bad asses staged one of their daring escapes.  They accomplished this break-out by paying careful attention to how the chain wrapped around the fence post, thus securing the gate to the barnyard.  With those dexterous lips, powerful necks and conniving personalities the boys liberated themselves.  This would have been trouble enough, but they pulled this stunt only minutes before I and friends were going to dinner at a nice restaurant.

 Tired of looking like Eddie Bauer I had myself all gussied up in a smart outfit, complete with slightly-heeled shoes.  Away they went, bucking and braying down the walnut-strewn nature trail; an ankle breaker even when wearing hiking boots!  T. to the rescue!  As he brought up the rear I stood by the gate, armed with the fearsome hoola hoop (the bad asses are terrified of the hoop).  With nowhere to turn but into the pasture, their foray was aborted in record time and we were only slightly late for dinner.

Sissy the serial killer has been on a rampage and has taken on Tess as her partner in crime.  No one wants to start the day chasing a dog with a full-grown, very dead rabbit clenched in her jaws.  Judging from the surprised look on the bunny's face and the hole in the side of his head it was clear that he'd been dispatched by the fearless feline.  The corpse was then collected by her canine chum.  But, the bunny was just the first of an incredible number of small game trophies. 

The weed-choked gardens are being cleared of invasive plants thanks to the unplanned burials.  One generous shovelful of soil per critter internment is resulting in spontaneous weed removal.  Should I be grateful to the deadly duo?  I think not. 

Tess, AKA Kujo, AKA Bad Dog is in addition to being an undertaker, a clever thief.  Since the donkey escape required a retrofit of the gate closure I set about the task early the morning after the break-out.  As I removed the old hardware, carefully placing the screws, hasps, etc. in a plastic tray I did not expect to see the black bandit rocket past me with a mouthful of 3" screws which she dropped in the grass. 

While I was collecting the screws, Bad Dog was back at the tray stealing lock parts.  The project was finally completed, but it took about twice as long as it should have.  With nothing left to steal she busied herself by digging up the rhubarb.  And to think how smitten I was by that cute pound puppy back in March (see photo).  I'm no longer smitten!

9:40 pm edt          Comments

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