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Kevin Ford

Dr. Jared Staudt

Jason Craig

Tommy Van Horn

Casey Truelove

Eugene Diamond

Brian Ring

Jim Curley

Amanda Ring

A New Home

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Posts | 4 comments

A New Home

Sometimes farming is dirty… That is a truth you should know before you set out on this journey back to the land. Sometimes you go out to the chicken coop and find the door shut. Inside the coop there are 18 chickens and outside…there are 85…in the dark…in the mud. So that’s how my night went. I had planned to simply go out and shut the door and collect the eggs. Instead I did an army-style belly crawl through the mud underneath our mobile chicken coop grabbing hens. There were twenty hens on the deck of the coop that were easily put back inside, but 65 of them thought a mud hole between the axles of the coop trailer was a good place to spend the night. 16 trips under the trailer later I had all the ladies back in their dwelling. Then I collected the 100+ eggs and went inside. Farming can be messy, but life in general is that way. I don’t know what I expected when I set off on this journey. I am horribly idealistic, but farming has helped tame the unreality I once dreamed of. The truth is that I still love to farm. It’s dirty, hard, and at times heartbreaking, but in the end it is still good. There are no shortcuts that can be taken. Had I left the hens on the ground for the night I may very well have lost a year’s worth of income from eggs. I wrote once that I wanted to raise my kids on a farm so that they would learn responsibility. That is still true, but it has taught me the importance of being responsible as well. One seemingly small choice or taking the easier route simply doesn’t add up in a world living under the consequences of the fall. We’ve finally moved our farm to northeast Kansas. We’re living with family because we have no money after the collapse of our farm last year in southern Kansas. We’re very grateful to have a place to go, and a chance to start over. God has been working as we’ve begun to settle in. We’re finally attending the Latin Mass regularly, which had been a long time hope of mine. We also have more land at our disposal than we ever had before. My pigs are growing by leaps and bounds us excess milk from a local dairy. The feed bill for them has basically disappeared. God is good. For now this is our new home. We have every intention of buying a farm out near the parish where we attend Mass. It is a lovely area on the edge of the Flint Hills. There are many families there as well, which is a welcome change from the loneliness we sometimes felt when living in St. Leo. Ultimately I still hold in my heart the idea of a Rural Life Institute to bring families back into contact with creation. We are too far removed as people from land. A healthy society is built upon a healthy rural life. We shall see where God leads us. Until then I’ll keep getting dirty and putting one mud boot in front of the...

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Faith, Family, and Community

Posted by on Apr 28, 2015 in Posts | 20 comments

Faith, Family, and Community

Three quarters of a decade ago I was told something that has since affected every action I have taken since. In a conversation on a forum a woman wrote: “The breakdown of the family didn’t start when women left the home but when men did.” For years I had bought the line that women needed to be home to do the most sacred of duties of raising children. I had never considered that for the most part men ought to do the same. In the past we had more of an ownership economy. It was an economy where man’s primary boss was himself. The proliferation of factories and the Industrial Revolution narrowed the number of owners to a mere fraction of the original. Already in the early 20th Century this was resulting in city slums and ghettoes. Poor in the city were very different than poor on the land. The landed folks could at least grow their own food, but in the city everything must be purchased. Not only were men lured away from their families, but women and children also found themselves slaves in a system over which they had no control. In earlier eras, especially the early American years, families often lived on farms and provided a living for themselves from the land. Shop owners in towns regularly lived above or attached to their place of work. Work life and family life had a harmonious existence. As time progressed those tops became empty shells now seen on so many desolate main streets across our beloved country. Laws even came into effect that made it illegal to work where you lived and vice versa. The separation of all things is a mark of Satan. Rather than things working in order and harmony, they work separately in disorder. What is ironic is that such disorder is often created in the name of the common good. You can always bet that Satan seeks to ape what God does, but the results are always the opposite. Now we live in an era where family life has become almost non-existent. The natural order is corrupted and supernatural order marginalized, ignored, or persecuted. We now live in a world that wants desperately to see even the deepest and darkest depravities of human nature normalized. Our lives are full of artificiality to the point where we have lost touch almost completely with the things that make us human. We have forgotten both the God who made us and soil from which we are made. The family is torn apart, community is torn apart, the faith of our Fathers forgotten, and we the remnant wonder what comes next. Yet, I believe that the Church has offered us a solution to all these problems in her Social Teaching. If there are still ears out there to hear let them hear. We need to discover again what it means to be human, to be made in God’s image and likeness. I think only a return to simpler way of life will aid us in this. In the midst of our technological innovations we are like the men of Babel making a name for ourselves. In so doing we forget that we belong to him whose name is above every name. In an artificial world we too often...

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Prairie Hoof Farm Crowdfunding

Posted by on Apr 8, 2015 in Posts | 0 comments

Prairie Hoof Farm Crowdfunding

Hello Friends and Supporters, For seven years now I have been writing here on this blog about the benefits of life on the land for families and culture. During that time I have taken my family on an adventure into farming, which has had many ups and downs. Last year everything went south for us, and we saw our dream of reviving our little home on the plains die. Well, now we’re picking ourselves back up and starting over, and for the first time in seven years I’m asking for some help. We have a great opportunity awaiting us in a part of the state that has better climate and even more importantly it is closer to awesome Catholic culture. I would ask that you prayerfully consider a contribution to our farm Gofundme campaign. I am linking it below. At least watch the video and share it on your social media accounts. Thank You! http://www.gofundme.com/prairiehoof...

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CSA: What I Meant to Say

Posted by on Mar 20, 2015 in Posts | 2 comments

CSA: What I Meant to Say

After thinking a bit about my last post I decided to remove it. Mostly because it may have shown a bit of pride on my part. I want to do a little addendum.   CSA’s do have a place in agriculture. However, one needs to be very aware of what grows where you live. Our failure with the CSA were beyond our control and not directly related to experience. Rather, it had to do with environmental impacts that couldn’t be dealt with organically. I know of many very successful and large CSA’s, and I’m sure my own bad experience of running one taints my overall view of them. However, I can note that Joel Salatin also is not a big fan of CSA’s. However, in some cases CSA’s may be the only way to get your items sold. So a few more pointers. 1. Don’t do a CSA until you are sure what you want to grow will actually grow where you want to live. (Veggies pretty much won’t grow where we live, but you’ll do fine if you are in a better climate). 2. Do what you love. I love animals and I hardly eat vegetables. Give me a steak and potatoes, or some bacon and eggs and I’m happy. 3. Don’t give up the dream even if everything falls apart. Regroup, replan, and start again. Pax, Kevin P.S. – Thanks...

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Thoughts on Community

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Posts | 16 comments

Thoughts on Community

So you think you would like to live in a Catholic community or a Catholic Village? Are you sure about that? I still receive emails regularly from Catholics who feel disenchanted with the modern world and say that “They would love to live in a Catholic community!” I don’t think they know what they are asking. The history of so-called Catholic communities is dismal, and I do not know of any true successes with regard to them. They all have a history of trauma and at times dramatic dissolution. I have written often of Catholic community, and would like to do a bit of a summarization of my thoughts here. I was once told by my spiritual director that “community” is a spiritual reality. It may or may not be physical. At times community is something built by a common belief system, or it may come about as a result of a shared struggle or dream. One thing for certain though is that you can’t just live next to others and have community. Community is not something that happens because you want it to happen. It happens as a result of other things. It is not something you can grasp or build directly. For example: a sports team that has a long struggle and works hard together over a long season will experience and build a certain amount of community amongst its members. This does not happen because they are trying to build this, but rather as a result of a common shared experience. In other words, community can only be grasped when we quit trying to grasp it. It’s like distant star that can only be seen when we look at it sideways. There must be something beyond you that draws you together. Attempts to build Catholic communities and such often have community as their object, but it doesn’t work this way. You must have something strong beyond the people in order to draw them to community. The team has a common goal of winning a championship. By seeking this goal they experience a certain amount of unity and community. What is the goal of a group of families moving to an area? What will be the glue that binds them? We humans are so fickle, and amongst more traditionally and orthodox minded Catholics this fickleness can be extreme. How will your neighbors respond when you…gasp….allow your girls to wear what they call “man” pants. What will happen when you tell them that … fill in the blank. Is it community that you seek or complete uniformity? There must be something beyond your group to draw you together, or you will find that every little difference tears you apart. You must find the commonality that binds you in order to enjoy the spiritual fruits of communion. Now I want to write a little of our experience at attempting to build community here in St. Leo. We invited another couple to come farm with us when we first moved here. They came a year later and lived in St. Leo for a little over a year. There are several things we realized were problematic in attempting to do this. First, we were both dependent on farming for our living. In fact we all experienced the exact same hardships with...

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It’s Harder Than You Think.

Posted by on Feb 26, 2015 in Posts | 6 comments

It’s Harder Than You Think.

Yesterday I came home from my admin. job and went out to do my nightly chores. I noticed as I was walking up that one of the finisher pigs was chewing on something that looked like entrails. My first thought was: “Oh no, what did they kill and eat.” Pigs are omnivores and will devour anything if given the chance. I headed out to the pasture to see if I could find any remnants. I imagined I would find what remained of one of our beloved cats, or feathers strewn from our chickens. Instead  I found the remnants of a baby pig carcass, several of them actually. One of our gilts had farrowed and the smell of blood had attracted the 18 finisher pigs. The mama had managed to save 4 of her piglets. Farming is harder than you think. I hadn’t anticipated this farrowing for a week or so. She came early before I had separated her from the herd. It was all she could do to save the four she did. She is a great mother though, and I am happy with the job she is doing. I suppose she lost four or five of her young. Lesson learned the hard way. The difficult thing about farming is that so often the things that go wrong are completely beyond your control. Now I could have stopped the piglet massacre, but how could I know she would farrow so early? Should have known she would farrow since we had a negative five wind chill. Perfect time for a farrowing. We faced droughts and grasshopper plagues and hail storms. All of these devastated our crops. The only thing we could do is get up the next day and start again. I think one difficulty that many of the “back to the land” type run into is their idealism. That idealism dies the first time or ten that old Daisy steps in the milk pail, or a pack of dogs slaughters all your chickens. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can prepare you for such things. Take them one at a time and learn from them. Sometimes those losses are costly mentally, emotionally, and financially. Sometimes grasshoppers eat all your crops and you lose four years of work, but there is only one thing to do. Get back up and start over again. There is no other profession quite like farming. You are at the mercy of not only the market, but also of the weather. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it doesn’t. However, you must find ways through every kind of situation. Every difficulty is a chance to grow. I go back to the Wendell Berry quote: “Love. They must do it for love. Farmers must farm for the love of farming.” You won’t get rich, but you can be happy doing it. Keep in mind the reason you are farming. I do it for love of farming, but also for love of my family. I desperately want to be with them. I want to teach them and show them the goodness of the land. I am grateful to have had that chance for a few years, and I hope one day to get back to it full time again. Kevin...

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A not so brief introduction

Posted by on Feb 15, 2015 in Posts | 7 comments

Kevin has recently agreed to let me come aboard as a contributor for the blog. I wrote a post here around a year ago and, despite my good intentions, was derailed with morning sickness and putting our home on the market. I plan to resurrect the “On the Journey” series in the hope that this experienced advice will encourage the aspiring farmers and homesteaders among us, but I thought I would take a post to introduce myself and my family to our readership first. My husband, Brian, and I have been married for almost 9 years. We have five children who are in equal measure adorable and ornery, aged 8 to five months. Brian is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and I have primarily been a homemaker and homeschooling mom for the majority of our marriage. While dating, Brian and I dreamt of owning an acreage someday. What we envisioned was more gated community than homestead. Both of us grew up helping parents and grandparents in their vegetable gardens and knew this was something we wanted to do with our children, too. We planted our first garden and soon learned to compost, discovered Mother Earth News and Joel Salatin, and we quickly formed a new vision for the life we’d like to provide for our family. We tried backyard chickens, the gateway animal, and shocked our family and friends with our new “landscaping” additions. Soon, our large suburban lot became an experimental canvas which included medicinal herbs, a large chicken coop, composting area, a variety of fruit trees and perennial fruit and vegetable plants, and of course our garden, which grew larger each year. Dreams of homesteading took shape in our head and at the same time we were both experiencing a period of spiritual growth. Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if someone combined their deep love of the Catholic faith with the homesteading lifestyle? Wouldn’t that be an amazing way to raise our family? So we turned to Google, of course, and found the NCLM blog. After my husband devoured the entire archives of Kevin’s writing and we realized how much we had in common with their family, we reached out to the Fords. We met in person later that year and consider ourselves extremely blessed to have them as friends. We had been planning to move to St. Leo to join the Ford and Truelove families last summer. However, God had other plans for all of our families, and last fall we stumbled upon and purchased a home and eight acres in north central Kansas. Brian has started his own accounting firm from his home office and the goal is that his accounting work will take up roughly the equivalent of a part time job. The rest of his time will be devoted to agrarian adventures. Kevin posted recently on the differences between farming and homesteading. We are firmly in the homesteading camp and the plan is to focus our efforts on raising a large portion of our own food and possibly sell some excess. Common advice to beginning homesteaders is to take it slow and while we may have been fairly experienced suburban homesteaders we are trying to temper our excitement while we are in this late winter planning stage. We plan on pursuing a mixture of new ventures...

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Things you Need to Do to Farm Successfully

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Posts | 3 comments

Things you Need to Do to Farm Successfully

If I had it all to do over again, I certainly would have changed a few things about how I went into farming. Here are few things to think about.   1. Farming as a Business: If you plan to make a living at farming then you need to treat it as a business. This means keeping acute records of every transasction, budgeting, business planning for multiple years into the future. I pretty much failed at all of these at some time or another. I tended to shoot from the hip with purchases, and was terrible at keeping track of income vs. expenses. You must do this if you want to be successful. I at one point bought four additional hives of bees. I had an “idea” that I might make money off of them, but I didn’t do much for them. We are in a low pollen/nectar area prone to droughts. All four hives starved to death during their first cold hard winter. Some forethought there would have been good. Ironically, I now work doing admin. duties for a gas company. I’ve become much better at recording things. I actually am implementing things I learned there into my farming. 2. Taxes: Self-employment taxes can be a beast. These essentially are for all the medicare and S.S. taxes you miss during the year which is over 15% of income. We stayed poor enough and have enough children to avoid this, but it is a beast. I highly recommend hiring or bartering for a skilled accountant. We pay our accountant in pork. We tried taking our farming taxes to HR Block the first year of farming. They had no idea what they were doing. We ended up walking out angry without filing with them. They had told us we would owe money, but we ended up getting a couple thousand back. Find an accountant who knows about Schedule F and who is familiar with small business taxes. They are worth every penny or pork chop that you spend. 3. Grow what people eat: Don’t specialize in bok choy, or imagine that other people eat lots of bok choy! I like bok choy, but most people couldn’t prepare it in their kitchen without a cookbook. Grow things that you would buy in a grocery store. If you grow veggies then specialize in lettuces, carrots, potatoes, watermelons, etc. Don’t grow a bunch of mustard greens and be shocked when no one buys them. Personally I say grow a pig. Everybody loves bacon. Raise broilers and sell them. Most states have exemptions for on farm slaughter of poultry. We can do 20,000 birds in KS. Before you ask whether you can grow it, you need to ask whether you can sell it. Also, can you compete with others selling similar products. 4. Grow what will grow: This means no cool weather crops if you live in Arizona. You need to grow what grows in your area. You may get away with a few things, but look around. There is a reason we were one of two vegetable farms in our county, and the only one that grew organically. There is a reason that wheat is grown here and not many other crops. It grows in Fall/Winter/Spring, which is our wet season. Summer is...

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Seven Years: A Look Back at my life and the NCLM

Posted by on Feb 8, 2015 in Posts | 2 comments

Seven Years: A Look Back at my life and the NCLM

Tonight I decided to do a review post…departing from the practical posts for one night. (An email asked me to do this so I am obliging) Seven years ago I was a newly married man who was just beginning to realize that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. We were living in the city and we were both teaching, but I didn’t like teaching or living in the city. Somehow I discovered homesteading and the Catholic Land Movement and I knew I had found the apostolate to which I was to dedicate my life. I knew next to nothing about farming. I had hardly done anything farm related my entire life! I had grown up in a farming community, but that doesn’t make a farmer. Thus I set out to learn everything I could. Seven years later I am a walking encyclopedia with regards to the Catholic Land Movement and sustainable farming. We’ve come a long ways. When I started all this my only plan was to just write. Thus I started a blog. (I didn’t really know what a blog was before that.) Craig S., a lawyer in Wisconsin and Ave Maria grad was my first follower. He and I have become “cyber-friends”. I was just happy that someone was going to read what I had to say. I have developed my thought tremendously over the time I’ve been writing. If you read the entire blog, this become readily apparent. At first I was mostly trying to form and develop scattered ideas. After several years those began to come together into the more coherent vision for the NCLM that I have today. On a practical level I did everything I could to get out of the city. A few divine interventions that included a house fire and a seven month stay in a 1 bedroom apartment with a cholicy baby, and we were suddenly on a small homestead. It’s hard to believe the cholicy baby is now my big 6 year old girl, Rose.  For 18 months I continued to teach, and then on the side I was milking goats early in the morning. In the evening I fed chickens and collected eggs. The garden grew a wonderful crop of weeds and we decided that we were going to do this thing full-time.  In April of 2010 I declined to sign my teaching contract and pursued farming as a career. I had no idea what I was doing, but you learn fast when the other option is starve. Our first year was in Topeka where we began running a CSA and doing farmer’s markets. We learned quickly that the CSA was preferable because of its stable customer base. It was a hard year, however we did welcome a beautiful second daughter, Ana. The drought of 2011 hit us and our irrigation pond dried up. An early season storm destroyed my greenhouse. However, we made it through much of the season. At times I would wake with night sweats and didn’t always get much sleep. The stress was terrible. We grew some beautiful vegetables that year and overall our CSA members were happy. It was at the end of that season that we decided to move back to my home in St. Leo,...

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Get a Free Rural Life Prayerbook

Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Posts | 2 comments

Get a Free Rural Life Prayerbook

TAN Books contacted me recently and asked me to advertise their new printing of the Rural Life Prayerbook. I highly recommend this book and have used it some time now in my own home. How can you possibly go wrong with a book that includes the Blessing of Bacon and Lard from the Rituale Romanum!? The book includes the ordinary of the 1962 Mass in the vernacular as well as many prayers and some beautiful illustrations. So, how can you get one for free? Use the contact us button at the top right corner of your screen. Just send your name and email and ask to be added to the drawing for the book. Don’t worry I won’t sell your info! 🙂 (If you’re new to this site then feel free to follow the blog and the NCLM over on the left side of the screen.) Kevin  ...

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