Busy Bees

About 18,000 new residents arrived on the farm Monday.


They’re now buzzing happily in their new homes, busy building comb and tending to their queens.


We’ve been busy too, getting ready for our Open House on Saturday.


Every year I worry that no one is going to show up, and this year is no different. We’re keeping a nervous eye on the weather forecast. We’ve had great weather every year, but this year’s forecast is dicey. Hopefully we’ll have a dry afternoon.



Every one of the great revolutionists, from Isaiah to Shelley, have been optimists. They have been indignant, not about the badness of existence, but about the slowness of men in realizing its goodness.

G.K. Chesterton

Reading Books

I enjoy seeing what books people are reading.  I’m a fan of the what-I-read-last-year blog posts that show up in January.  So much so that I kept track of my reading in 2014 and put up a list of my own.

Selka at Permaculture Grin just finished reading 100 books in a year (in about 10 months actually), and she published the list of books read on her blog. Having read a mere 32 books in 2014, I’m impressed.

I try to spend an hour a day with a good book, usually just before bedtime and preferably accompanied by a glass of wine. So far in 2015 I’ve read 13 books, and I’ve enjoyed all of them.  At this pace I should end up reading about the same number of books I read last year–not bad, even if well shy of a hundred.

I know that lots of folks who read this blog are book-lovers.  I’d wager that a lot of you spend time in a book or two everyday, as we do.  And I think it’s very cool that so many readers of this blog are published authors.  Those that I’m aware of have been added to my list of books I intend to read.  It may take awhile, but it will happen.

On the advice of one of you (Dawn from Sailorsmallfarm, I think), I’m reading Ben Falk’s Resilient Farm and Homestead now and it is rocking my world. Permaculture is still new to me. I read Mark Shephard’s Restoration Agriculture earlier this year (on the advice of either Dawn or Farmer Khaiti). I wish I’d been aware of this philosophy when we were establishing this farm. I’m already making plans for some changes around here, incorporating permaculture principles.

Just before starting Ben Falk’s book I read frequent-commenter Curt’s book The Bush Devil Ate Sam, a delightfully entertaining (and informative) memoir of his time in the Peace Corps in Liberia in the 1960s. The book is a page-turner, and I highly recommend it.  Curt enrolled at UC-Berkeley just in time for the beginnings of the student rebellion there, putting him on the frontlines at the beginning of one of the world’s greatest movements for social justice. Some of that story is told in his book, and a fascinating story it is. Most of the book tells the story of the time he and his wife spent in Liberia.  I laughed out loud and I learned a lot, which only happens with good books. The story of his dog Do Your Part crashing the grand opening of the community’s first mosque (Curt having been mistaken for “the international media”) is alone worth the price of the book.

The book closes with some insightful thoughts about Liberia’s tragic history of the past few decades.  It caused me to think of a Liberian woman who was a classmate of mine in seminary, a kind and gentle person who lived through the horrors of the civil war there.  Whenever she tried to talk about it, she cried. Something she said about Americans has stuck with me.  She said that here when we say grace before a meal (if we bother), it just seems perfunctory. In Liberia, she said, people are truly grateful for every meal and they offer thanks with joy at the miracle that food is.  I wish I could recall her exact words, because I’m not doing them justice.  Suffice it to say that Curt’s concern for Liberia and the Liberian people resonated with me, even though I’ve never been there.

By the way, Curt is also one of the rock-stars of the blogosphere. Go check out his blog (HERE). You can buy his book from Amazon, but I recommend you contact him directly for a copy.


A self-reliant nation is built upon a citizenry living in resource-producing and relatively self-reliant communities. Self-reliant, tenable communities are composed of self-reliant households. And relatively self-reliant households are the basic building block of any culture that is viable over the long term without requiring war (stealing of resources) to sustain itself. No democratic civilization can last long if it is built upon a citizenry that consume more than they produce; that’s debt and debt is inherently unsustainable and ultimately undemocratic. If our goal is a peaceful, just society, self-reliance at the home and community levels must be a central focus of our lives.

Ben Falk
The Resilient Farm and Homestead.


About a year and a half ago we started up a monthly gathering we called “Piedmont Sustainable Living,” hoping it would be a way for folks interested in homesteading and sustainability to get together for fellowship and idea-swapping.  We joked that we wanted to be able to talk about the things that interest us with a group of people who wouldn’t think we were weirdos.

The gatherings have been a success.  It’s a great group of people, and a lot of fun.

We always start with a potluck supper, followed by a discussion.  Last night we had our April get-together. One of our friends brought freshly-harvested morels and cooked them up at the meeting.  Two couples brought salads made from just-picked greens. There was pasture-raised chicken.  And Cherie made blackberry cobbler from wild blackberries picked on our farm (as we’re trying to clear out the freezers of last year’s goodies to make room for what’s about to come).  It was a delicious meal of locally-raised food, which would have cost a small fortune at a restaurant, but cost the homesteaders very little.  The mushrooms, blackberries and much of the salad grow wild.

One of our friends brought homemade soap and gave a bar to everyone who came.  Another friend gave us some tomato plants she started.  A friend gave Cherie a potted herb.  And we traded knowledge too, discussing the best places to get quality products in bulk–like flours, herbs, tea, toiletries, etc., and exchanging gardening tips.

We sat on the back deck and talked until dark.  A fine way to spend a Saturday evening.

The Revolution is Delicious

Most nights we spend a couple of hours quietly reading before bed. But every once in a while we have a “date night.”

Our date nights are typically as nerdy as our ordinary nights. Last week, on a date night, we went to see Ellen Gufstafson speak at a nearby girls’ boarding school.

We were pleased that the menu included food from our farm.

We were pleased that the menu included food from our farm.

Ms. Gufstafson is an activist in the local food movement. She gave an inspiring talk. She believes, as we do, that by making better food choices we can make the world a better place. I haven’t yet read her book We The Eaters, but it is in my soon-to-be-read pile.

I was pleased that she addressed the commonly-held belief that eating better means having to suffer some sort of privation–that having a nutritious, ethically-sourced diet means being hungry all the time and having to give up tasty food.

Not true, she argued.  Just as we keep telling people, eating well means eating the best-tasting food you’ve ever had.  A good diet will leave you feeling better, not worse.

I liked her punch line, “There is a revolution going on, and the revolution is delicious.”

A Morning

The morning began with a rainbow.


I fed the pigs.


And noticed that Wendy’s kids ought to be weaned.


A muddy morning seemed like a good opportunity to carry some scrap metal in for recycling.


Then I spent some time in the woods, searching in vain for morels, known here as “hickory chickens.”


I’ve been looking for them every April I’ve been here.  And I’ve still never found one.


Even though I came home empty-handed once again, the quiet time in the woods was nice.  That kind of foraging causes me to go slow and pay attention to my surroundings and the things at my feet.




I should do that more often.