I Do It My Way

Hermitize — A Sibling Conversation

JerrySo, I was talking to my sister. Generally speaking, we were complaining to each other about our jobs. During the course of the conversation, I stated that I wanted to retire and become a hermit, which led to the creation of several new words. First was "hermitize," meaning "to become a hermit," and I explained to my sister that I was already taking steps down this path.

My sister was like, "No duh, that's why you live in the middle of the woods. And here I thought you were still trying to channel that Madness song about our house."

I explained to her that no, I was simply experiencing "hermitization," a natural process which occurs when one grows weary of the nonsense that seems to define modern living. My sister suggested I was full of it, thinking that I was simply spreading some of what I'd stepped in earlier in the day before heading to my job.

This brought up the whole traumatic (traumatic because it's so hard to do each day) issue of "dehermitizing" — leaving your hermit hole for any length of time, which for me involves getting up five days a week, doing a few chores around the house, and then driving about 30 miles to a job that doesn't fell like it accomplishes much expect paying the onerous taxes and insurances that have become so ubiquitous. My sister suggested that maybe I'd been spending too much time studying the theory of de-evolution. To which I informed her that I was through being cool, and, after all, it was a beautiful world we lived in. She just shook her head, sighed, and stopped talking to me. I tried to explain, but we both had work duties that needed attention.

Truth be told, my sister and I did have a real conversation reminiscent of this, and it got me to thinking.

I realized that there are a whole lot of people in the world just like me who really want to be left alone, to be able to live on our own property, do our own thing with our families, and be allowed to live without the dictations of society dragging us down. When you think about, it is that really too much to ask?

So I would encourage everybody reading this to hermitize to the extent you feel comfortable. Grow your own whatever-it-might-be, opt out of the culture that inundates us with advertisements and pressures us to buy stuff we don't need, actually take your life in your own hands, and live.

Lone cabin
Photo by Fotolia/Volodymyr Shevchuk

Rural Roadside Reclamation

JerryWhen you live on a farm you soon discover that you can never have enough stuff;  bailing wire, nuts, bolts, nails, chains, random pieces of steel and lumber, coffee cans, etc ... I like to think of my stuff as valuable materials, I’m pretty sure my wife thinks of it as that %$#@^& pile of &*#$% that keeps her from parking in the garage. 

One of my favorite ways to get more stuff is through what I’ve dubbed “Rural Roadside Reclamation”, more commonly known as picking up stuff off the side of the road. RRR has many benefits. First and foremost, the stuff is free! Second, it’s a public service, you know, keeping the roadside all clean and pretty for the tourists. Third, it’s a great way to get some exercise in the fresh countryside air. Fourth, you get to experience nature in an intimate fashion, you never know when you’ll find a snake or a skunk to help facilitate number three above.


Did I mention FREE, I don’t know about y’all, but I like free stuff. A lot. One time I even found a whole garbage bag full of freshly laundered children’s clothes on the side of the road, including a pair of pants that my son found a couple of dollars in the one of the pockets. Free stuff that pays you is amazing. Some of the best stuff I’ve found during a RRR session includes our home security system. As you can see, the level of security provided was well worth the cost. 


Sometimes when involved in a RRR session you never know what you might find just sitting around in the weeds. On several occasions in the past the remains of old rusty metal lawn chairs have been discovered. With a little co-mingling of parts, some brazing, and a thick coat of paint these relics of a simpler time now grace our front porch. 


Tools and various bits of hardware are also encountered at times during RRR. Hammers, wrenches, sockets, pliers, and so on will occasionally be spotted and rescued. I’m currently hoping to add a tap and die set to my Life List, if anybody hears of any roadside sightings, please let me know.


Sometimes you encounter things that just defy explanation, but that are just too good to leave behind … Sorry gotta go, just heard a report of some lost marbles, I need to go see if they are mine.


My New Hobby

JerryRecently I've taken a shine to a new hobby, restoring stuff. First was a roll top desk my wife inherited. It was full of amazing stuff from the 1920's, including lots of "smart pills" left behind by mice. If there were any secret hiding places full of treasure they are still there.
Next came a corn sheller. This treasure was purchased 10-15 years ago at a garage sale in a small central Texas town near my home.
Then I cleaned up and painted the remains of an antique sheep/horse shearer that my son excavated from an old trash pile on the family farm. After about a year of trying, I only figured out what the thing was after posting a picture on a Rural History page on Facebook. In what was, for me at least, an interesting and cruelly ironic twist, here's a picture of a shearer from a 1920's catalog found in the aforementioned roll top desk. A catalog that had been at our house for at least 6 months while I was trying to figure out what the thing was.
Feeling rather froggy, the next item I jumped off in was a Champion forge blower that I bought at an auction.
Next up? I think it's gonna be this steamer trunk, another artifact inherited by my wife.


Then maybe I'll start on the old horse drawn wagon whose metal parts are in a pile in my barn, or the 8N parked outside the barn, or the two other antique forge blowers I've recently acquired, or the two old metal lawn chairs laying in the "to do" pile behind the barn, or maybe a shed of some kind to house all these junktiques in so I can get in my barn ...


JerryThe thought of living in the woods with few neighbors can be a little intimating to some folks. Self-reliance is a necessary trait for a homesteader, but it can lead to some challenging situations. Recently we had one of those challenging situations at our homestead. As has been widely reported, much of Texas has received a little bit of rain lately. In fact, some areas have had way too much rain. While we did not suffer the terrible flooding that some places got, we did get a real frog strangler, 8 inches in three days on already saturated ground was bad news for the road up to our house. In fact the canyon created by the raging runoff rivaled Palo Duro.



Feeling obligated to make some quick repairs ahead of some additional predicted rain, I got my trusty MF out and started rearranging some of the misplaced dirt. This basically consisted of moving dirt from our gate back to the top of the hill so that it could start it's migration back down the hill. Things were progressing well, the berm I wanted to create was done, the worst of the canyons had been refilled when disaster struck. Wanting to get one more load of dirt to put some finishing touches on one of the canyons I took my MF back down to the gate. Spying an area of unmolested soil that need rearranging I got in position and the MF sunk; and by sunk I mean axle deep in liquefied dirt. At first this was kinda funny, a stuck MF. I strolled to the house, loaded the chains in my 1 ton 4x4 GMC and headed back with my son in tow to rescue the MF. The MF and the treacherous dirt had other ideas, nothing we tried would unlodge the MF. In defense of the truck, it never quit trying; it just couldn't get any traction.



Beginning to get a little desperate, a friend appeared, returning home from an evening out on the town. A friend with a big green tractor, a big green tractor that barely managed to get my MF outta the tight spot it was parked in. So, the moral of this story is to keep on good terms with your neighbors, you never know when you'll need them and keep your MF tractor on solid ground.

I think I’m gonna give my friend a nickname, State Farm, because like a good neighbor, he was there ….

The Chicks From Hico

JerryRecently I went on a trip out West to pick up some chicks. What I found were a dozen beautiful chicks all clamoring for my attention and affection. They were all so attractive I was confused and unsure what to do. I had driven almost 2 1/2 hours to get to this chicken ranch, and didn’t want to leave without something to show for this excursion. What was a poor boy to do? This poor boy decided to take on all 12, even after discovering that some of these chicks were most likely gonna be males. They were all just too gorgeous to leave behind (once you see their photos, I’m sure you will agree), so we caged them all and loaded ‘em into the backseat of my truck and beat a hasty path back to our home on the range. We arrived home with our beauties just in time to catch the last act of a deer play, unfortunately we missed the antelope.


In the past I wondered what kind of dork would drive hundreds of miles just to acquire a specific breed of cat or dog or any kind of animal for that matter, now I know – me.

It all started a while back, when I was reading some information that piqued my interest about a type of chicken known as an Iowa Blue. They were a dual-purpose breed, layers of brown eggs and very alert, all characteristics that fit nicely with the Plan (the Plan is the well-thought-out course of action that I intend to follow in order to get rich farming). Included in the information I was reading was a list of IBC breeders, one of which happened to be near me (2 1/2 hours is not considered to a long drive in Texas, it can take longer than that to get from one side of Houston to the other, a trans-Houston drive can make you lose your religion, but that’s a topic for another day).



One of the reasons that farm living is the life for me is the awesome people you get to meet and the interesting experiences you get to…experience. This trip was a perfect example, my wife and I met an amazing woman and her son who are working hard to help preserve this uncommon bird, the Iowa Blue! We consumed some of the best hamburgers ever at a small hamburger joint in Meridian, Texas! We got to see miles and miles of Texas! We got a dozen new chicks (eight IBC and four Silkie/Silkie crosses)! My truck got to drive through some slicker than snot mud!


Life on the farm is kinda laid back … gotta go, got some manure displacement exercises out in the garden to tend to … until next time ….


It's The Garden and I'll Plant What I Want To

JerryIt's The Garden, and I'll plant what I want to!

I spend a great deal of time in The Garden, and I take what I do very seriously (not that I don't have a lot of fun). Like many folks these days, our family is on a very tight budget, and as a result, the food our garden produces plays an important role in helping us keep our heads above water. There is no way our family could afford the quantity, quality, or variety of fresh vegetables The Garden provides us if we had to purchase them at the local grocery store.


The Garden serves as an act of rebellion for me. By growing my own food, I cut out the middle man, I get to choose the varieties I grow, and I am feeding my family more healthful food, arguably at a lower cost. Admittedly, The Garden is a small act of defiance, but a person has to start somewhere, right? How, you ask is a garden an act of rebellion? It’s all about taking back control of at least a part of my life, and a step away from the culture of greed and consumerism that is so prevalent in today’s world.



The Garden is good therapy. It helps to cleanse my mind; it makes me happy. How can you not be happy when you are surrounded by the beauty of ripening tomatoes, chirping bluebirds and painted buntings, and the wind rustling in the corn? (BTW, I really like corn.) The Garden is a place to enjoy the wonders of nature such as the setting of the sun and the awe of a spring thunderstorm rumbling across the horizon. The Garden inspires me to focus on the promise of tomorrow and helps me forget any unpleasantness encountered during the day. The Garden is great mentalfloss.



So, get to planting and have a therapeutic rebellion of your own!

Corn, It's All Corn

JerryA couple of weeks ago I planted several rows of corn at my parents’ house. I wanted to try growing my own popcorn this year and didn’t have a large enough area for both popcorn and the field corn I usually plant, but my motivation was a little deeper than that. My parents like corn, my grandparents liked corn, and I’m sure my great-grandparents did also. I planted corn at my parents’ because I was sure it would make my parents happy (it did), and to honor the generations of my family before me. BTW, I really like corn, and I like korn, cornbread, hominy, cream style corn, corn on the cob, etc. … You get the picture.

corn | Fotolia/lbordeafeliciea 

Photo: Fotolia/lbordeafeliciea

So, back to the corn, the seeds I planted are a variety of “Indian corn” that I won in a drawing nearly 40 years ago. It was somewhat of a white elephant, so having no better ideas of what to do with this treasure, I shelled the corn, bagged it and froze it. The corn lived in the freezer for several years; after all I was only about 10 years old at the time. Eventually I grew up (some would argue that point) and started planting my own garden. As one might imagine, one of the first things I planted was corn! Forty-year-old corn! When I stuck those seeds in the ground I was hoping that at least a few would come up so that I could pamper them, save the seeds and continue this line of corn. To my surprise, almost all the seeds sprouted.


foreststalksForty-year-old corn sprouting and growing green and tall is a wondrous thing. Admittedly, field corn does not make for the sweetest corn on the cob and it can be a little starchy if allowed to get too mature. But I continue to plant these amazing little kernels every year and every year they come up, creating a beautiful corn forest. In a way I feel obligated to plant these little nuggets each year to honor the generations of selection that have taken place to create a plant that will grow from 40-year-old seeds.

As for that corn growing at my parents, I am planning to leave most of it on the stalk until dries and grind it for flour. I can’t wait! Look for an update in a few months.

Taking a step back, I ponder the intimate connection between the domestication of corn and the domestication of humans, an “ongrowing” process that has changed both of us, hopefully for the better.

Plant it and it will grow.

For an interesting perspective, give the song “John Barleycorn” a listen, I’m particularly fond of the version by Traffic.