Tag Archives: agriculture

Zinzendorf 2.0

In a world increasingly defined by its crises, it is time for a radical shift back to an old approach to Christian community. The 21st Century has barely begun and already we are confronted with a growing plethora of complex challenges that must be overcome. The global economy that has defined much of world politics over the last 100 years appears to be increasing in instability. The ecology of the planet is increasingly taxed by unsustainable human practices, some of which could very well bring in the devastating effects of droughts and famines. Technology has allowed for great leaps forward in human wickedness, including the massive growth of the pornography and sex trafficking industries. In addition, here in these United States, the political situation is rapidly increasing in instability since our government has broken loose from its Constitutional moorings and has been careening wildly towards Federally imposed tyranny limiting free speech, freedom of religion, and the other freedoms American’s claim to hold dear. In the midst of all these difficulties the Church of Jesus Christ, as a body called out to serve their fellow man and seek and save the lost, has an incredible opportunity to take the lead in resolving these difficulties.

From its inception, this blog has been about Faith, Sustainability, and Liberty. The idea that follows is still in the rough, it needs refining and tempering, but above all it needs people of God to be willing to make radical changes in obedience to Him. What follows represents Thetonedeafbard’s total solution to the crises that are converging around us. Please join the conversation by leaving a comment or sending me an email at thetonedeafbard@gmail.com

That this shift is definitely necessary needs to be made clear, but effort has been taken to not overly dwell on the problem. The following is a brief summary of the problems looming on the horizon of the 21st Century, details of each issue are abundantly available from other sources.

The Problems
As this post is rather long, those well acquainted with the difficulties I mentioned in the first paragraph may skip this section.

First and foremost, the Western Church is facing a crisis. Much of it is becoming increasingly irrelevant to young people, while simultaneously many churches are selling out core Christian values and in the process giving up any influence they had left. Even good churches struggle to accomplish their Biblical role because their members aren’t really doing life together. Even for those who are still truly following Christ, it has become increasingly difficult for their worship not to be crammed into one of several compartments in their lives. At the end of the day, Christianity must be communal to survive in an increasingly antagonistic post modern culture, and right now it just isn’t.

Simultaneously, the Global Church is experiencing a massive transition. The success of Christian Mission in reaching the unreached, while not complete, has seen massive success. So much so that the West no longer makes up the majority of the Christian world. Western influence is still very strong, but will likely begin to wane in the near future, as our Majority World brethren take more and more responsibility. In the meantime, there are still thousands of unreached people groups perishing without the Gospel. The Church needs to make a concerted effort to make a functional hand off of this task, before the Western Church drops of the scene more completely.

Industrial agriculture is failing. All the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, genetic tampering, monoculture, etc. is beginning to take effect. The global food supply is increasingly vulnerable to disease and an increasingly unstable climate. In particular soil degradation and deforestation are taking a heavy toll, causing decreased crop yields, alterations in weather patterns, drought, failure of the soil to retain moisture, increased plant disease, aquifer depletion, and a whole host of other environmental issues. Our expensive fossil fuel based inputs are yielding more and more diminishing returns. Sooner or later, as yields decrease and soil depletes industrial agriculture will no longer be able to feed the earth’s growing population.

Our cheap energy era has also come with tragic human consequences. Urbanization and industrialization, while allowing some to reach levels of prosperity never before imagined, have also created massive pockets of urban poverty. In many of these pockets people are unable to meet their own basic needs for food, water, shelter, healthcare, hygiene, etc. Those living in these areas are suffering from daily deprivations, and are also more prone to exploitation such as that by the global sex trafficking industry. The Church of Jesus Christ has a Biblical command to meet these physical needs while introducing the Savior. At this time we have seen great strides towards relieving this suffering, but what is needed most deeply is a cultural shift that will address the larger problems causing poverty and suffering.

Exacerbating all the problems listed above is the increasing risk of economic collapse at the hands of rogue nations. The United States has led the way in treading a path towards tyranny and economic slavery. Americans are losing more and more of the liberty they cherish, while supporting a military industrial take over of the rest of the world spearheaded by super corporations. The tragic results are that, while even American’s who have more traditional ability to defend themselves against the rise of authoritarianism are giving up their liberty, those in the rest of the world with less resources are also paying the price for our negligence. As the cost of all of this government increases, the entire globally connected economy is facing increased threat of hyperinflation and collapse. Since this is happening simultaneously to these other global issues, the entire world could face massive amounts of suffering and loss simultaneously as much of what we have thought of as civilization risks passing away.

With a series of issues of this proportion and level of interconnectedness, a giant game of whack-a-mole isn’t going to work. These solutions call for a concentrated solution that will address all of the dangers and suffering that are happening now and are yet to come. The good news is, that solution has already been found. There is a historically validated answer to the current situation, that can be implemented today.

A Historical Solution

Count Nicolaus Zenzendorf and the Moravians provide one of the most fascinating expressions of Christian community available. While not historically well known in many circles, the Moravian community continues to have a disproportionate historical impact. The Moravian community launched the Protestants into world mission well ahead of the “Father of Modern Missions” William Carey. Their community life influenced the thoughts and practices of both John Wesley and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Even now there are churches all over the world who originally received the Gospel through the ongoing ministry of the early Moravian missionaries.

The Moravian Brethren were originally from a variety of theological backgrounds that were being persecuted in other parts of Europe. Count Zinzendorf provided them with shelter and allowed them to form a community on his estate. When theological infighting grew intense, Zinzendorf decided he had better take a more active role in the community. He sat down with the various community leaders and they studied the Scriptures continually until the issues were resolved. What came out was not a unified doctrinal statement in the traditional sense, but instead a set of standards for Christian living in community. Over time this deliberate practice of Christian community in sharing of the word and life together developed into a mission sending community the world has not really seen the like of since.

With an emphasis on practical skill development such as agriculture or various useful trades, the Moravians went forth equipped to provide for their physical needs while physically serving those to whom they went. They went forth with a passion for Christ so deep that several literally sold themselves into slavery to reach unreached African slaves. A survey of the modern mission movement, and how disproportionately it has been touched by this small community of brothers and sisters, gives us a great deal of insight into the effectiveness of doing life and mission in intentional community.

The temptation when looking at such an effectual community as that of the Moravians is to think that such a place must have been a historical anomaly. The fact of the matter is though, it has long standing in the classical Christian tradition. Eusebius records communities such as this one as early as the first century, and while it is not entirely clear, the Acts gives us some clear indicators that the New Testament Church was living in a very communal setting as well. All the way through the medieval period, and even today in the Roman Catholic church, the monastic tradition emphasized life together as a means to know God and serve man better. The trouble with discussing the monastic movement, for the purpose of this conversation, is that many today focus on how withdrawn members of the monastic movement were from daily life so much that they fail to see the innumerable acts of intentional mission performed within it. Suffice it to say, that the Moravians provide an excellent example to work with, provided it is recognized that they stood on the shoulders of others and did not represent some entirely new idea.

The New Moravians
The question then is: How could such intentional living impact the difficulties faced by the Church today? This kind of intentional living comes with an impact that has the power to reverse a great many of the problems faced today. What follows will be a brief outline of the impact of a return to Christian community in the Church today.

Many of the problems faced in the Church, especially the western churches, stem from a lack of true Christian community. Despite being active members of local churches, regularly attending services, and even partaking in a plethora of church related activities, many Christians are not in anyway getting the kind of community required for a vital Christian faith. Biblical Christianity cannot be had apart from Biblical community. This is why we are a called out body of believers, not merely called out individuals. The Christian life can simply not be attained without Christian fellowship.

This is particularly true when we are talking about purity and relevance. Purity cannot be maintained in the face of a hostile post-modern society without a community for support. Even if a theoretical individual had the will not to give into perceived social pressures, the ability to recognize the numerous areas where ground had already been given would be absent. Only in community can individuals see the dangerous flaws in the societies they have grown up in and then actively reject those flaws through their actions. This is a process, it doesn’t happen over night; but it can’t even begin if there apart from a group of people doing life together.

Without community, Christianity is also largely irrelevant. The Gospel was written for communities, not individuals. The command to love one another only applies if there are others to love. How can the transforming power of the Gospel be modeled before a broken world, unless radical disciples submit themselves fully to the life together. When Christian interaction is limited to intentional times of worship and fellowship and then each believer goes back into a largely secularized environment, what is put on display? Nothing more than the actions of a single individual. However, when a body of people do life together in a way that reflects the love of Christ in them, then their individual witnesses joins together into a compelling case to a different kind of life – a life in Christ. Separated Christians have very little opportunity to impact the world around them, but in intentional community whole communities, and even nations, can be transformed by the power of the Gospel.

Not only is intentional community required for basic Christian life in purity and relevance, it is also vital to the Christian mission. The Moravians successfully sent a disproportionate number of laborers into the harvest field largely because they had the community support structure to do it. There was a community to hold accountable each individual to the call of God to the nations, but there was also community in place to insure that each individual was equipped and supported in living out that call. No one left for the fields unsure of who would be upholding them in prayer 24 hours a day. In a time when the global leadership of the church must transition, nothing can be more unifying or missional than moving back towards this kind of intentional life together. As the majority world church rises to influence, now is the time to insure that the Church moves forward rooted in solid community, rather than empty times of fellowship.

This isn’t simply a matter of transitioning to a better form of Christian community while we transition to new leadership. Moving towards more intentional community will also make this transition more smooth and effective. The Western Church has gained a tremendous amount of insight, through experience, over the years into how to Biblically and effectively reach the unreached. As much of this knowledge as possible needs to be shared with our brothers and sisters around the world as quickly as possible, so that they can begin to fulfill their role in the mission of God. Unfortunately most Western education structures, among them colleges and seminaries, are not very compatible with the majority world church. Even if they were more compatible, they have often proved to be a barrier to those headed toward full time Christian service. The model Jesus provides for us, and that the Moravians displayed so well for us, is that of the life together. The disciples experiences with Jesus were ultimately the base of their entire ministry in the book of Acts. In the NKJV, Acts 4:13 says of the Pharisees “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” It was this act of doing life together that resulted in the Apostles missional effectiveness and understanding of the Gospel. Life together takes education and information sharing out of the classroom where it is theoretical and out to the streets where it is practical. Not only is this a more effective tool for teaching and equipping God’s people, it is also universally applicable in all cultures because community life is defined by those who live it.

At this point it is clear that community, as modeled for us by Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, has a powerful impact on Christian living, but what about some of the other 21st Century issues in discussion? In an age where our agriculture system is such clear trouble, there has been a growing movement of people “back to the land” who are focused on subjects like self sufficiency. The reality is, there is no such thing. The success of our ancestors in living sustainably off the land was rooted firmly in community not individualism. That said, if a dedicated community chooses to radically focus on Permaculture as a sustainable design system, it can live in a way that not only protects the community itself from the growing list of short comings of our current system, but that, whether urban or rural, also protects the larger community around it. The ability to design and work together in restoring natural patterns of design in the land, provides the ultimate opportunity for communities to live out the already present positive alternatives to our failing industrial model.

This kind of sustainable living together also answers the questions posed by urban poverty and suffering. Focusing on sustainable food production and high quality community healthcare that combines modern knowledge with natural patterns allows us to not only alleviate the suffering of the poor in the short term, but also to educate poverty out existence by modeling a better way forward. Hands on education that demonstrates the success of those who practice it can cause the whole economics of poverty to be abolished. Especially where we are talking about greening the food deserts and equipping people with the ability to meet their own basic needs. This is especially true when intentional Christian communities make the choice to set up in the heart of poverty blighted urban centers. The end result of this change not only removes poverty, but also makes impossible the all to uncommon exploitation of the poor that is too common today.

Finally solid communities doing life together in a way that is sustainable by design to the glory of Christ are not only hedged from the destructive effects of sin and temptation, but also from global economic uncertainty and the growing push towards statism. How this ecological liberty impacts poverty and redefines local economies has already been discussed, all that needs to be added is that this redefinition removes those local areas from the chaos of global markets by bringing all of the most important economic needs of the community back within the community. When all of these needs are met locally, communities are not so adversely impacted by the larger scale economic problems we face.

Community also lies at the root of solving our problems with the push towards Federal control of everything. First, it reverses the push to honor the state as though it were God through dependency, instead asserting the value of each member of the community to assist in living sustainably before God. Second, in community, those who love their God given liberty can more effectively work to protect it. Since small, self sustaining communities are already economically fairly autonomous and free, they are much less susceptible to being bullied by the State. With so much of the aggressive tyranny happening at the local level, replacing local governments with deliberately free communities puts a stop its growth. Not only that, but the kind of community being discussed here also sets forward a model for free living that can continue regardless of what happens in the country as a whole.

Intentional communal living then is a key tool for educating and equipping the church to carry out its essential mission. In addition, it is the key to sustainable living on this planet and will assuage and shelter against the suffering present and coming in our nation and world. It should be a great comfort that this has been done successfully before, and, while perhaps not being done as completely as discussed here, is being done successfully even in our times. It is time for the Church to make a concentrated effort to return to vital Christian communities, communities that heal people and the earth they inhabit.

The Next Zinzendorf

Only one thing is lacking. The leadership necessary to begin implementing and calling for this change needs to emerge. The Moravian community was successful to a large degree because of the passion and commitment of Count Zinzendorf to the success of Christian community. In a day in age where much of the Church has moved far away from such principles of community, it will take strong leadership to return to it. The call and push towards effective community is urgent and time is moving quickly.

Would the next Count Zinzendorf please stand up?

Does Climate Change Really Matter?

One of the great, most politicized debates of our time is whether or not the Earth’s climate is changing. Many have claimed scientific consensus that the planet is warming, while many, including scientists still remain skeptical. The corollary question of “What do we do if it is changing?” has unleashed a whole host of government regulations and controls.

The truth is, the whole debate is completely irrelevant. How can a topic that has potential to so greatly affect the lives of all the people on this planet be irrelevant? There are two reasons.

First, the ecological damage the planet has sustained through soil erosion and poor agricultural practices is so severe that we are in extraordinary danger, regardless of the climate change issue. In addition our “improvement” efforts over the last century or so, have caused dangerous climate change at the local level. The straightening of the Mississippi River for example has left us with a devastating flooding problem. Soil erosion, however, should remain our top priority. Monoculture based, chemical intensive, industrial agriculture is destroying our soil at a ridiculous rate. One report I saw recently said we are now losing 200 tons of soil per acre on acreage turned over to the 5 main food crops traded on the stock market, soy, wheat, maize, rice, and potatoes. This is totally unsustainable, and has resulted in a situation where maintaining our current production requires more energy, chemical, and water input each year. Sooner or later this loss of soil is going to result in a catastrophic failure of our agricultural system, when it does we will see massive food shortages. In a period of extreme global famine, I don’t think there will be tremendous concern whether the earth warms or cools.

The second issue is where the good news begins to come in. The key point is that the solution to our soil loss problem will also reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere that is blamed for climate change. When we return to healthy food production processes, through careful application of the design principles of permaculture, and a restoration to normal, local food production systems, we can begin rebuilding soil, but we also begin returning carbon back into the soil. According to Joel Salatin, a move to perennial based, high efficiency grazing, if done only in the United States would sequester all of the carbon emissions since the industrial revolution, in as few as 10 years. This methodology also builds soil at a faster rate than the environment can normally do on its own. In addition, permaculture systems can produce vastly more nutritious food per acre than industrial systems, allowing us to reduce the distance food travels to the table, and allowing us to return a lot of the acreage of forests we destroyed for farm land back to sustainable forestry.

This fix is a total package. It not only heals the land in the micro space, but it also meets human need in a way that fixes the larger issues facing our planet, assuming climate change is real.

The news gets better! This is not a large scale solution that requires massive government regulation and the loss of liberty, instead this a solution that can be carried out by individuals and communities at the smallest scales imaginable. Only as more and more small scale answers are found will the large scale problems be repaired.

Chicken Tractors!

I finally managed to finish the chicken tractors this weekend, what started as a Saturday project ended up eating the better part of 3 weekends but these things happen. The design is entirely my own, I’ll go into more of the details as I go along.

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For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a chicken tractor (Europeans typically call them arcs). The idea is to place the birds in a space that meets their needs for green forage for one day, then they are moved each day to fresh forage.

There are a couple of advantages to doing things this way compared to other methods of keeping chickens. With a traditional coop, any grass in the chickens run is typically gone within the first couple of weeks, after this if you feed them fresh greens they will have to be cut and hauled in. In addition, because they are moved daily, chicken tractors don’t generate a bad odor, which is often the case for more traditional coop designs.

The tractor also provides protection from the elements and from predators, whereas birds who are free-ranged, while they get plenty of fresh forage, don’t have this level of protection. This is particularly helpful for smaller flocks where the loss of even one bird is pretty devastating. The tractors are also helpful for people, such as myself, who are involved in urban or suburban agriculture. The neighbors after all wouldn’t appreciate having chickens running crazy in their yard.

The tractor gives me an aesthetically pleasing way to keep the chickens exactly where I want them. For more details read Chicken Tractor

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I patterned these tractors to look like a miniature version of a little red barn. As you can see they are accessible on both sides via the doors. This makes it relatively easy to access them to get the eggs out, feed, and water. We have been getting 8 eggs a day so far, which is pretty impressive since we only have 8 birds. As you can tell from my post “Mini Farming”, the hens are very glad to get fresh greens everyday instead of every few days.

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Inside I have chosen to use plastic crates for nesting boxes. I love to use them because they are cheap, easy to find, and have a variety of functions around the farm. Versatility is a must for small scale, low acreage operation.

The waterers are kind of special so I’ll mention them here. This is a new design I encountered when I picked up my chickens. I was unhappy with traditional designs because they tend to get dirty very, very quickly and in our hot summer time weather that can be a dangerous thing for the birds. These waterers are built using poultry nipples which the birds peck from below. Each time they peck at it they get water. Because the water is enclosed in the 5 gallon bucket it stays fresh and clean. These systems are also cheaper on price point, a five gallon traditional style waterer costs $35 or so. I got a set of 5 poultry nipples for only $9 and the bucket was free. You could probably get the bucket for $5 though if you didn’t already have one. These are also super easy to make. All you do is drill a 5/16 in hole in the bottom of the bucket, wrap the threads of the nipple in plumbers tape and then use a drill and an 11mm socket to screw it into the hole. It might have taken me 5 minutes total.
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These tractors have been customized for Alabama’s incredibly hot summers. The birds will need lots of shade come summer, so I brought the sides all the way to the ground on two sides and left the front and back open. I will face these east-west so that the birds get plenty of morning and afternoon light but are well shaded in the heat of the day. The heat is also why I put in the roof vent, which you can see is screened with poultry wire.
For anyone interested in building something along this design, most aspects of the build were relatively easy. I bought all the materials new and it ended up costing me about $150 or so each.
If anyone wants more details I’d be happy to share more information on how I built these. Just email me or leave me a comment.

Mini Farming (with pictures)

My posts have been a bit sparse this week, but I had been intending for quite some time now, to do a post showing just what I’ve been up to. We have been doing small scale food production for several months now, having picked back up after moving out of our apartment. Things have begun to pick up speed the last two weeks, and this week I got a bit busy. This post may make master gardeners cringe (if it does I’d love feed back in the comments section) as I have much more experience with small scale livestock production than gardening. I do hope, however, that for others who may not have much experience producing their own food that this post will inspire you to try new things. Explanations will be below each set of pictures.

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We are very fortunate this year to have had access to a greenhouse that was already attached to the house. As you can see it’s a simple design and takes full advantage of the existing wall of the house. The wall it sits against actually backs up to the basement which further increases the temperature stability of the greenhouse. On the coldest nights we had this year (low 20’s Fahrenheit) I have been able to keep the temp at a cool but stable 45 degrees just by leaving the lights on. This has allowed us to get a head start with spring planting as many of the plants we already have growing would normally just be going in the ground without the greenhouse. Due to our mild winters, I am excitedly hopeful that we will be able to produce cold hardy plants year round.

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Another advantage of having a greenhouse is the workspace it provides. I can start plants on the work table, pot them, etc. without worrying about dirtying up the floor. Starting plants indoors in the house can be a bit messy. To the right is the plant “nursery” I created to get an early start on plants like peppers and tomatoes that have a higher germination temperature. I scavenged a lamp the shade broke off of, and old vent hood, and a rubbermaid box and based the design on chicken brooders I’ve made in the past. With an internal temp averaging 80 degrees or so it has worked great for growing plants fast (sometimes faster than I’ve known what to do with them) and by lowering the light I could also raise chicks in it if I decide to raise broilers.

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Now that the weather has finally warmed up all the plants are enjoying the sunshine on the deck behind the greenhouse, another big perk though is that end of next week when bad weather is expected I’ll move the young plants inside so the wind doesn’t rough them up to much.

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A young tomato plant (left), bean plants waiting to be trellised (right). Of note, some of you may be concerned about my direct application of manure. The manure in question is rabbit manure which has a pretty even carbon-nitrogen balance, for this reason it won’t “burn” the plants like most manures will and can be applied directly without composting. I still prefer to mix in a little bedding to be safe. However, as I recently discovered, you should be careful not get any rabbit urine on your plants or the ammonia will kill them. That goes for worm beds to.

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Okra plants (left), a strawberry plant in a hanging basket (right)

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Kale plants in cast iron pots (left), I am hoping to move these inside over the summer and grow leafy greens year round. Alabama has borderline subtropical temperatures which means summer can be harder on plants than winter.

I am experimenting with growing blackberries in pots (right, large, round brown pots). I couldn’t find much info on pot size but there were numerous gardeners saying they did this successfully. I’m guessing those pots are around 5 gallons. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Another experiment this year has been with fig trees. You can see our 2 fig trees in the top left of the picture overlooking all the plants on the back deck. Since fig trees can be grown from cuttings, I saved several of the healthy cuttings when I pruned the trees this year and potted them. Obviously I will have to separate them out after they grow some, but as you can tell from the new green shoots they are alive and growing.

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I’m also tinkering with the beans and peas. I couldn’t find much info on how to trellis potted beans or peas, but I knew from Square Foot Gardening that there space requirements are relatively low. I decide to try wrapping the wire cages around the pots, this way the they take up the same amount of space vertically as the pot, but by wrapping around the outside should get a lot of linear growth over the 4 foot vertical climb, in addition all the beans/peas should hang on the outside for ease of harvest.

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My final big experiment is with sweet potatoes. The ground pots will be pretty conventional, grown up wigwam style pole trellises, the only experiment there is with that one small pot in the top right of the photo. However, I’ve read that they can also be grown down from hanging planters so I thought I’d try that too. I doubt that the smallest pot is big enough but I accidentally bought to many plants and had other plans for my last remaining larger planters. I suppose worst case scenario I’ll transplant it.

 

 

 

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One of my favorite ways to have an “instant garden”, especially when moving somewhere new is to use one of these “top soil gardens”. The bags of topsoil are cut open at the top and have holes poked in them at the bottom for drainage. With a little compost these become instant raised beds. As you can see I’ve got collard greens, lettuce, and spinach coming up fairly well. Although I’m afraid they should have been watered more this week.

 

 

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Rabbits are one of the most efficient ways to produce your own food in a small space. They are lots of fun to raise, but a bit hard on the heart to process. The two in the top right photo are Flopsy and Mopsy, the one by himself is Peter. These will be our new breeders. Coming soon they will be moved out of the greenhouse to the cooler and shadier back porch, as well as getting a “tractor” so that they can graze the lawn during the daytime (I won’t be leaving them out at night due to neighborhood dogs and cats). With my rabbits I use deep bedding, putting in several fresh handfuls a day to cover over their newest manure. This allows me to keep the cages more sanitary while going longer between bedding changes. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the hanging style, wire bottom cages.

You’ll also notice the rabbits are eating left over lettuce. We try compost as much as possible, particularly by running compost through the animals. Right now that means the rabbits eat our greens and the chickens get the left overs. Coming up soon I plan to have worm beds at which point I will double compost the rabbit food by giving their manure to the worms, they will also be able to eat several things (ex. crushed egg shells) that neither the chickens or rabbits can currently eat.

 

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The chickens have been the biggest source of work for me this week, since we got them a couple of weeks ago they have been in the temporary home you see above. This has several major draw backs: First it takes about 30 minutes for me to move it, compare this to a better build tractor that can be moved in 2 minutes or so. You can see the problem with this in the top right photo. See how there is a small patch of green between the 2 eaten down patches? That patch was underneath the edge of the pen, the birds have literally gotten so hungry for fresh greens that they were sticking there heads out of the fence and eating down the 4 inches or so they could reach on the outside edge of the pen. This is a good indicator they aren’t being moved often enough.

My project this week, which hopefully will be a post for next weekend has been to build 2 new tractors for our birds so that they can be moved daily on to fresh forage. Our birds are already getting a fairly green diet which has contributed to what one friend called “the best eggs I’ve ever had”, but I would like them to get as much as possible.

We have 2 heritage breed birds, Road Island Reds and Black Australorpe’s who had just started laying when we bought them. I personally prefer to buy adult birds for laying hens, since it guarantees egg production (no birds die before they start laying) and cuts down on the cost of bringing them to laying age. We were fortunate to find birds that had been laying for just 2 weeks and had been free ranging, which has contributed to their being very aggressive foragers.

Hopefully by the end of this week I will be able to do a post with pictures of the new chicken tractors, in addition I am planning to return to my normal 3-4 posts a week this week.

Will Regulations Solve Our Environmental Crisis?

I don’t really care what you think about climate change; to be honest I barely care what I think about climate change. My reasons are simple enough, we can easily document the massive amounts of smaller environmental damage that has been caused by industrialization. Even more importantly, if we fix the things that we can easily prove are happening we also fix the larger situation that theoretically is causing climate change.

The question then becomes, “What do we do about it?”. For my part I believe we have to go after our agricultural problems first. The entire world is currently tottering on the brink of starving to death, primarily because of dependency on industrial farming. The damage we have done to the world’s farmland is so extensive that we could easily see a massive downward movement in food production at any moment. We have only been able to keep production as high as we have by pumping in more and more artificial pesticides and fertilizers every year.

The good news is there is a farming revolution taking place. Farmers like Joel Salatin are taking back our nations food supply and reintroducing the idea of the family owned, sustainable farm. They have found a model that creates high quality, nutritious foods in a way that is good for the environment and provides for the farmer. In short this method is wholistic it takes care of the soil, the animals, the people, and pretty much all other involved parties. Many are concerned, however, that this change is not taking place fast enough. They are arguing that for the sake of human health, animal rights, soil erosion, etc. the government needs to step in and use regulation to force the issue in the right direction.

Those who advocate such changes have a fundamentally flawed understanding of the nature of government regulations. We have a top down, government lead agricultural infrastructure now and it isn’t taking us anywhere good! In other words, we are calling on those who created the problem to now take the lead in fixing the problem. The problem is that regulation is fundamentally unable to improve the situation, because to do so is in direct opposition to basic the nature of government.

There are 2 very fundamental problems with regulation that contribute to its failure to create the kind of positive change that we are looking for:

1. Regulations are ALWAYS created by the industries they regulate. Regulations go into effect when members of an industry use “the common good” as a pretense for keeping their competition out of the market. Look at the key policy makers in the USDA, FDA, etc. pretty much all of them are former employees of companies like Monsanto, ConAgra, Tyson, etc. They can’t regulate agriculture in a way that damages their former employers, otherwise they won’t have anywhere to go back to when they get tired of being in government. In addition they are in government, precisely to aid their employers interests. Think about it, who else could claim to be qualified to regulate the agriculture industry? What’s more, any legal change has to come from Congress. Congress likes to get re-elected which means that they like campaign donations. The result is that Congress only passes laws that favor large campaign donors. Since the multi-national agribusinesses are loaded with cash and the small farm movement has only small cash reserves, all regulation is going to favor the industrial agriculture model. These causes exist in pretty much all government agencies but the results are always the same, regulations are used pretty much exclusively by the industries they regulate to keep out undesired competition. For this reason, regulation cannot bring in substantial change to an industry.

2. The government always reflects the majority opinion. The government cannot causes substantial change because it always reflects the view of the majority. No politician can push for substantial changes, unless the majority of voters approve, because in doing so he risks his political future. This is a simple, inherit fact in all representative forms of government. As a result, when the government is entrusted with care for an area like agriculture regulation, the industry will remain unchanged until a large enough majority of the American people care enough to make things change. In fact, the government will fight to protect the status quo in the name of protecting “democracy”. Only in a free market are minor innovations constantly created and then tested based upon their success. The result is that only the best innovations are brought to the forefront and the system gradually becomes the best it can possibly be.

The best course of action for the government to take, if we want to restore America’s ecological resources and food security, is to get out of the way.

Let me give some examples of how the government is currently contributing to America’s failed industrial model of agriculture:

Farm subsidies are used to coerce farmers to pursue certain courses of action. Money is a powerful tool, and it is frequently given with strong stipulations. In many cases these stipulations force the farmer to pursue an ecologically flawed method of agriculture because of the need for government money. They also create an economically flawed method, by encouraging farmers to put large amounts of capital into single use, capital heavy equipment.

Zoning and food safety laws are being used to keep American’s from growing their own food. The government has consistently used “food safety” and zoning laws to keep people from providing food for themselves, or from making food choices for themselves. It has become extremely common recently for homeowners to have food gardens removed by force in the name of zoning. It has also become difficult to buy, sell, or even grow food that doesn’t have government approval. In the recent food safety act, even home canning equipment got defined as “food processing equipment”, with the government giving itself regulatory control over all “food processing equipment”.

Regulations are used to make it prohibitively expensive to be small, local producer. The mandatory purchase of $20,000 piece of equipment in the name of “food safety” is much more manageable for a producer that produces millions of chickens every year than it is for one who produces hundreds. This clever type of legislation appears to create innovative food safety solutions, but it is actually being used to lock small operators out of the marketplace.

This is just a small sampling of how regulations are used directly to benefit the large agribusinesses that have created the crisis we face today. Only a return to an individually run, small scale, grass based system will bring us back to where we need to be. This will only happen if thousands of people begin making small decisions for themselves that push us back from the edge of the cliff and towards a more sustainable future.

One final objection rebutted: Don’t subsidies make food cheaper? Some have advocated the need for farm subsidies in the name of keeping food prices lower for those who have lower incomes. As a the head of a single income family of 4, I certainly understand this sentiment; however subsidies are making your food more expensive. Those who, like myself, have to keep up with grocery prices will have noted a substantial increase in the price of food every year for quite some time. The cause of this increase is inflation, inflation caused by the government printing more money to keep up with its growing debt burden. Since subsidies are one heavy contributor to Federal spending, you could say they are responsible for the inflation that is driving the prices up.

Beyond this, it should be noted that American’s spend a much smaller percentage of their income on food than has been historically noted, and instead spend a great deal more on healthcare. If American’s were actually spending as much as they should on food, perhaps they wouldn’t have such high healthcare costs. In addition, it has been historically normal for most of society to produce some of their own food. A better price control would be to teach those who are not financially well off how to produce their own food, rather than trying to artificially reduce the price of food.

At the end of the day the ultimate problem with any argument that we need a top down, centralized, government run food system is that we already have one. Any attempts at advocating for such a system are going to have to explain why over the last 100 years the system they are advocating for has done more extensive damage to our environment and the farming culture of America than any other farming method ever tried.

No Magic Bullets

I won’t lie, there is a lot wrong in the world today. I won’t say things are worse in the United States than the rest of the world, but we have begun the process of decline and that will probably come with some very extreme consequences. Just think about some of the things that we are now facing:

*We have entered a period of total moral depravity, and the church, in most cases, has chosen either to endorse wicked behavior despite clear Biblical contradiction or else fails to take any significant action other than petitioning the government to outlaw such behavior.
*Mixed in with this moral decay is a level of narcism, materialism, and hedonism rarely seen except in the death throes of a society. As a result of this many members of society are too focused on themselves to even notice the early markers of societal collapse.
*We have so totally destroyed our nation’s topsoil reserves that we could very likely see a famine sometime in this generation.
*In the meantime the food that we are producing has been so processed, genetically modified, chemically altered, and degraded that we are all getting sick just because of what we eat.
*Our economy is exhibiting all the early warning signs of a hyper-inflationary collapse, and the national debt has soared so high that we are only a few short years from having the interest payments on said debt exceed our GDP.
*We have a political class that largely believe that it knows better than the people and can take whatever liberties it wants at our expense.
*This same political class is largely bought and paid for by a relatively short list of major corporations resulting in an unholy union of government and big money. The result of which has been the rise of a new aristocracy with tendencies every bit as oppressive and tyrannical as any before it.

I could go on like this for quite some time, but I think my point is sufficiently made. No doubt you have many of your own issues that are deeply effecting the lives of Americans and others around the world today. There are a growing number of people well aware of the difficulties that we have created, the problem is that most people don’t recognize the solution. We have a tendency, as human beings and more specifically as Americans (who love convenience), to want to find some miraculous solution that will put everything right, what I refer to as a magic bullet. “If only we could elect X” or “if only we could pass a law doing Y” are phrases that get tossed around constantly.

Now if you pay attention to nothing else, pay attention here. The fundamental problem with these kinds of phrases, and even with several recent grass roots political movements, is that they fundamentally believe government is the answer. They are rooted in the belief that if we change some governmental issue then all will be well. The thing is, there is no quick fix or magic bullet for the litany of problems we are facing down as a nation. It is time to remember who we are as Americans, and more importantly as free human beings. The answer isn’t some mystical “them”. The answer lies with us. Americans have always been a people who find ways to overcome extreme odds, a people who pull together their own creative genius to find new and better ways to overcome unbeatable odds. The problems we face today, while certainly influenced by those who benefit from them, are the result of millions of poor decisions made over time. When you change yourself, and then begin to take a positive role you aren’t just changing things, you are becoming the change that needs to take place.

This isn’t an easy thing to embrace. It means that we bear ultimate responsibility for each and every situation we encounter, and that means that in areas we have yet to change ourselves we have to accept that we are part of the problem. At the same time though, it is time to do away with this nonsensical notion that nothing can be done. Stop behaving as though those in power will do whatever they like and no one can change it. You can change it! You, yourself can take actions that will ultimately result in total transformation of our society, because you are society.

Is your faith deeply offended by the American church culture? Be the change, get repentant before a Holy God, become a person of prayer and holiness. Then find a church that is actively engaged in the Great Commission, in local ministry, and teaching the word of God unadulterated and with authority. Can’t find one? Then start a home fellowship, church isn’t about a building it’s about the fellowship of believers. Don’t just passively endorse false doctrine or total inaction by your continual attendance every Sunday.

Does the media’s constant drivel of wicked programming bother you? Turn it off. Seek out new and more uplifting means of entertainment. There are millions of books, many of the greatest classics are now free. Besides that, there are millions of activities you could be doing together as a family that will make you stronger and closer rather than weaker.

Does the encroachment on American liberty by the new aristocracy deeply disturb you? Take back your liberty! Stop voting for lesser of two evil candidates and instead vote only for those who actually represent your values, you may not win right away but you will at least not be part of the problem anymore. Get involved within some of the 3rd party and independent grass roots movements. Demand pro-liberty legislation, especially at the state and local levels. Educate your fellow citizens, many of them probably don’t realize that they are surrendering their liberty bit by bit every day. Wake them up and show them how to stop. The Son’s of Liberty had to do exactly that prior to American Revolution, otherwise we might still be under British rule. Remember that depending on where you live you may have to vote with your feet, and you may also be forced to commit civil disobedience.

Are you concerned about the economy? Fix your home economy. Get rid of your personal debt load even as you raise the alarm about our national debt crisis. Build a strong home economy that will have enough redundancy and resiliency to stand up under a wide variety of economic conditions, including collapse. Pick up a productive trade in addition to whatever you already do for a living. Then, help re-form the Daughters of Liberty. They worked together to make sure American’s weren’t overly dependent on imports, especially British imports. Even as the Sons of Liberty were preparing the people to start a revolution, they were making sure that American homes were adequately prepared to do so. Band together with your friends and neighbors to form your own micro-economy, one which is free from the industrialized economy and not dependent on our failing currency.

Are you tired of the constant assault on our nations agricultural resources? Feed yourself. Grow a large garden. Or, better yet, get a hold of some land, whether borrowed or bought, and become part of the small farm revolution. Purchase what you can’t produce from healthy, local producers. These skills are slipping away from us quickly, read as much as you can on the subject and relearn the proper ways of producing food. Rediscover your own kitchen, prepare your own food from raw ingredients rather than letting some massive producer prepare it all for you hundreds of miles away.

These suggestions are only the beginning. There are literally millions of small action steps that you can take, and help others take to become an important part of the necessary change. I hope that we can discuss these others together as more time occurs, if you have a problem or answer you would like to discuss drop me a comment.

At the most fundamental level, the first thing you must do is change your mind. Recognize that our situation is not hopeless, we have overcome worse situations before. The Great Awakening occurred at a time when public morality was so poor, many thought the church wouldn’t survive. The revolution was carried out against the world’s most powerful empire. The Constitution was created, in large part because of a inflationary and debt laden monetary crisis. We are the answer, and with God’s grace, providence, and guidance we will overcome these crises as well.

It’s time to stop complaining about the problem, and become part of the solution.