Thursday, May 30, 2013

Form Thee Thine Conscience

This chord might be abused.
Sooo....let's just ban guitars!
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Thinking a bit more about my musings on NFP recently, it struck me that, perhaps, the main chord that resonates among (what I perceive to be ) the "anit-NFP crowd" is that NFP is being abused. Therefore, in light of the fact that people may not be not forming their consciences correctly and abusing the just reasons (not "grave" or even "serious" - see the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], No. 2368), we just need to rethink the Church's whole support of the NFP mindset and lifestyle.

Theology of the Body (For Beginners)

Worth a few good reads!
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I just finished reading Christopher West's excellent Theology of the Body for Beginners for the second time.
The first reading was a revelation for me, in that it helped me to think of marriage and the body in terms much more elegant and spiritual than I had previously.
This second reading (naturally) provided some additional insights for me.
The first major insight was the concept of "freedom from the law." Of course, I had read that before, but it didn't click until this time around.
But wow.
Plenty to ponder....

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thirsty Sheep

I went out to check the sheep's water levels today. They were low.
Dude, where's our water?

NFP: "Trojan Horse," or Saving Grace? Part 3

Laying to rest the anti-NFP+RP ideologies.
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This is part 3 in a series. Turns out I had more to say than one post would naturally allow. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

We're nearly done showing how both Scripture and Tradition do not support this. Now, we'll put the final nails in the coffin of Ms. Boyd's non-Catholic theology, and lay it rest.


Here we go....

NFP: "Trojan Horse," or Saving Grace? Part 2

There's a lot to hack through here.
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This is part 2 in a series. Turns out I had more to say than one post would naturally allow. Part 1 is here.

Previously, we looked at the first sections of this. Now, we'll hack through some more.

We'll start by looking as Ms. Boyd's fundamental misunderstanding of what NFP really is.

NFP: "Trojan Horse," or Saving Grace? Part 1

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This is Part 1 of a series. I started writing, and there's just so much to say, I had to break it up.

Wife came across an article that is not only flat wrong in its theological assessments, but also quite damaging. The article (and the author) present NFP on the same lines as using artificial birth control - that it is the mindset of attempting to space births that is the problem. The article goes on to assert that this violates the fundamental order of marriage as proclaimed through the Tradition of the Church...yet fails to back that up. In fact, the only citation in this piece is from a lay blogger.

Here is the article written by one Jay Boyd. You can skip the link, as it will quoting 95% of it as I rip it apart, with the help of Scripture and Tradition.

Now, let's dismantle this bit by bit, shall we?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

New Guinea Keets

Six new little guinea keets.
On Sunday we picked up 6 guinea fowl keets. They're a week old.
We got two lavenders, one pearl, one white, and two pied, or multi-colored. They should make a nice-looking, tick-destroying flock. :)
They will free-range, so the entire area (plus our neighbors) should see a drastic decline in insect and tick populations by this time next year.
The plan is to build some permanent housing by the garden so they start off and finish each day eating bugs through the garden and orchard.
No names as of yet. I need to be able to distinguish them a bit better first.
So excited! I've wanted them for two years now. I'm so glad things are finally rolling for us.
God is good!

Recap of a Big Gardening Weekend

Wow. We got a LOT done on the garden this weekend.
We finished planting all but one of the square foot beds. The last one we're going to save for some late-season crops.
We got all of the tomato and pepper plants in the ground. We had originally started them indoors, and began hardening them off about 2 weeks ago.
We also got the sunflowers, melons, pumpkins, cabbages, and squashes all planted. Yay!
It was a total team effort. Even Thing #3 helped:
"Hi Dad! I'm just gonna borrow your gloves and
wheelbarrow for a  bit...."

Chickens and Table Scraps

The chickens were scared and a little
confused by the table scraps.
I started giving the chickens our leftover table scraps. At first, they really didn't know what to make of them.
A few came over to investigate, then ran away really fast. It caused quite a panic in the Chick-u-bator.
But after a few minutes, they settled down and started pecking at it.
Before long, ....

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Mastiff!

Colt, our English mastiff, turned two this month. I missed his birthday when it actually came around.
Two years old and 200 pounds. Happy Birthday, big fella!
So now that he's 2 years old and 200 lbs., he's almost full-grown. We expect him to fill out and peak at around 220 lbs.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chicken Coop Plans

Here are my sketched out coop plans:
The door hinge and nest box concept drawing of the chicken coop.
It's going to be 10 x 6 construction, wood framed with metal walls and roof, single slope roof with upper corner venting, set on two reclaimed bike wheels, with pull handles (rickshaw-style), and doors allowing us to access the nesting boxes, plus a fold-down walkway for the chicks to come in and out.
The floor with be all hardware cloth, so it will be movable and allow fertilizer to drop straight through.
I have the plans all set, cut sheet laid out, and everything. I just have to finish up the axle and wheel well designs for the wheels.
I should have time to build it the first weekend in June. So excited!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Antique Piano

Yesterday we got a piano delivered.
It's a family heirloom, belonging (presumably) to my great-great-father. His son (my great-grandfather) is the first one with confirmation of ownership, but given the family's status and history in the Boston area at the time, it makes sense that his parents (well-to-do shop owners) would have bought it new. Plus, my great-grandfather wasn't born when the piano was built. Or so we think.
Our New England Piano Co. antique piano from 1890.
It's a beautiful piece, and once repaired a bit, will definitely get played. Some details:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Math Worksheet Generator

I had Thing #2 work on several sheets as extra practice this morning.
Came across this handy little tool today.
It's a math worksheet generator. You can enter in any type of sheet you want to make, edit the questions directly (see me changing the 77?), and then print it out. I will be using this all the time.

Thirsty Chickens

Some thirsty lil' chicks getting a nice, cool drink.
The chick-u-bator has thus far been superb. The chicks have quadrupled in size, nobody has died prematurely, and I've had only one escapee. He flew back in on his own in a matter of minutes.
Sure, there's the occasional chicken scuffle. It gets broken up pretty quickly. Yes, I already know who's going to Freezer Camp first.
But the best thing has been the food and water situation. I have a pretty standard hanging feeder from Tractor Supply, and also a chicken water system from Avian Aqua Miser. The water has been so easy. I fill the bucket up once a day, and change the whole thing whenever it gets crud in it. No poop, no messes, no spilling. It could not be easier.
The chicks are growing so fast, I had to raise the waterer a few inches.
Once I get the coop built I'll move from the milk replacer bucket the waterer currently uses (2.5 to 3 gallon) to a full 5 gallon bucket. The 5 gallon was too big for the chick-u-bator.

Sprouts in the Garden!

Look at them there tasty radishes.
We got our first sprouts this year. They look great.
Not much, I know. But giving all the work we did in getting the garden ready, I'm excited to see some actual progress.
It turns out that in the several days of heat and dryness, we haven't had to water. The wood chip cover has retained the moisture very well, keeping the donkey compost and soil moist and cool underneath.
We'll see how the transition from sproutlings to plants goes, but for now, I am thrilled.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Off-Grid Solar?

Form AND function.
I stumbled across this article on off-grid solar this weekend. It got me thinking what it would take to get my house totally on solar power.
I already use a solar-powered fence energizer for the sheep and donkey (and soon, chickens). It's one panel that trickle-charges two batteries. I love it. I plan on getting more.
But the whole house?
It's something I'm looking in to.
That 30% tax credit is calling my name, too.
It's on the radar.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Why Every Homestead Needs a Donkey

Samson the Donkey and I, chillin' in the back 2.
So a year ago, we had been experiencing some issues with gardening and grass cutting. The garden wouldn't grow right, and the grass wouldn't stop.
I just couldn't manage to get either one under control.
Our vegetables were having nitrogen fixation issues. Our lawn was growing faster than I could mow.
So I did what I do - I got on Google.
How do I enlist help mowing the lawn, without buying a big riding mower? How do we get nitrogen back into our soil? What steps can be taken to balance the land?
I stumbled across a gardening thread where somebody casually mentioned having access to donkey manure. The other members were insanely jealous, calling it "garden gold" and wishing they had some instead of their cow manure.
At the time, we had no animals, and no access to manures of any kind. Also, we had no fence.
But with some looking into it, I discovered some fascinating information about donkeys. Pretty soon, I realized we just couldn't go on much longer without a donkey.
The next hurdle: convincing the Wife.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Checking on Chicks

"Hi guys! Can I play too? Guys?"
Thing #3 is keeping an eye on things.

He LOVES seeing the baby chicks. Well, all of the animals, really. He especially squeals in delight when the chicks start running around the Chick-u-bator.

Toddlers are so funny.

God's Chicken World

This is NOT by accident!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ketchup With Your Caterpillar?

Is the U.N. promoting wild honey, too?
So the U.N. say we need to have more insects in our diet.
Sounds ... slimy, yet satisfying.
They also "recommend" feeding insects to chickens.
Now that is something I had planned to do already, so no biggie there.
But the crazy thing, from my POV, is that all of these new ideas about fixing the problems introduced by Western culture have already been done for centuries. The Western mind, post-Industrial Revolution, has tried to engineer a way to "better" everything.
But there's no balance.
The farming and cattle raising methods of the food industry require more and more input (chemical fertilizers and antibiotics, genetically modified feed, etc.) to get the same output.
So now we have to eat bugs.
I just wonder why man had to tinker with God's designs in the first place....

To Cow or Not to Cow?

That is the question.
On the one hand, the price of local, non-factory, fresh, whole milk is skyrocketing. I have some extra land, and the cost of building a two-strand hot fence is relatively cheap. Buying a young female cow, and breeding/birthing yearly, could provide all the grass-fed beef and dairy we could ever need, at a fraction of the combined cost of buying them all retail, even from co-ops.

On the other hand, it's a cow.

I'm not entirely sure I'm ready to take that leap.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Somehow, in looking up chicken wing clipping, I came across an article on the education structure in the US. Such is the internet.
It was a very interesting article on the "deliberate dumbing down of America."
Me fail English? That's unpossible!
Covering the history of Pavlovian training and stimulus response in education, the article shed some light on why it seems that a lot of people I know in the public school/secular humanist realm simply regurgitate. It's because the art and science of thinking for yourself has been systematically destroyed.
Gone are the days of individualism and ingenuity in America. In its place is "teaching for the test," education as regurgitation, and work-based training. If students are only ever taught to merely regurgitate that which authority tells them to, they are easier to control, and sweeping societal and political change can be forced upon the populace with virtually no resistance.
So goes the thesis.
It certainly gave me a LOT to think about these last 24 hours.
It also helped shed some light on the militant atheists who I've attempted to discuss philosophy with. Dissect their worldview in 30 seconds, and get called a bigot. Very intelligent.
Most importantly, it steeled my resolve to continue homeschooling our lil'uns.

Garden Planting!

32 square feet of garden goodness
Finally got some garden beds planted.
This is #2 of 2. -->
#1 was, I learned a lot planting bed #1. This is our first year doing the wood chip covering, and it took a bit to get the hang of it. To the sides, you can just see the outlines of the adjacent beds.
By combining the square foot and Back to Eden methods, we hope to get a high yield while watering little.
Stay tuned!

3 Reasons Catholics Say "No!"

Got it? Now let me tell you why.
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As an NFP teacher in training, I thought I’d try to tackle a tricky subject. Why does the Catholic Church teach that sex outside of marriage is wrong?
Let me preface this by saying that I think it’s the wrong question to ask. Rather, we should ask, why is the Catholic view of sexuality so right?
It is right because it allows sex to be used for what it was meant to be used for, and doesn’t settle for anything besides that.
The world settles for less.
The world says “less is best.”
The world says, “I give up – I give in. My emotions win.”
But the Church says “Um, no, the best is the best, and never settle for less.’
The two questions posed above are intertwined, but I think a little diving in would do some good. Here goes: three reasons why sex outside of marriage is sinful precisely because it is so lacking:

Off the Bottle!

No more of this 4 times a day!
All three sheep are finally off the bottle. Pot Pie got her last one last night.
They're all on 100% grass now. Sure, they're not eating much yet. But the transition was pretty smooth.
I started with four 8-oz bottles daily for 8 days. Then I dropped it down to three (cut out a mid-day bottle) for 2 days, then two for two days (only morning/night), then just a night-time bottle for 3 days. Then, nothing. But i had to account for Pot Pie being a week younger, so her schedule was extended. Oy.
Sure, there was a good deal of bleating. But a week later, the older two look VERY healthy. They're getting much bigger, and at a higher rate, on grass only than it looked like they were with the milk.
They also look a lot less stressed now.
Maybe one day I'll miss running out at midnight, fumbling around to turn the electric fence off, scooping them up, putting them in a wheelbarrow to prevent fighting, smelling the faint aroma of vanilla pudding when I mix the milk replacer....
But that day is not today.
I'm super glad they're all fully pastured, weaned, and ready to rock out on grass.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happiness is a Sharp Blade

I spent about 6 total hours with the scythe this Saturday.
Every spring, the grasses explode around my house. One week, they're a few inches tall, and the next, they're TOC. The reel mower can't handle the explosion in height and volume. It's simply not built for the long, dense grass cover that inevitably comes roaring in with April and May.
So instead of futilely hacking at with the reel mower (again), I decided to break down and scythe it all. The scythe cuts everything at between a half and one-and-a-half inches. It's a clean cut, taking down everything in  its swooshing arc.
The uber-sharp scythe blade evenly crops everything in a 4-inch by 7-foot swoosh.
Everything, that is, when the blade is ridiculously sharp.
And there's a parallel to the spiritual life that I discovered and meditated on.

Dude, Where's My Orchard?

I went around the fence and couldn't find it.....
The orchard is gone! :O

Friday, May 10, 2013

Garden Retrospective

We started our garden long before I started this little online diary.
It's come a long way in a few weeks from the the "yeah, this spot looks alright" to having 5 beds composted, chipped, and ready to plant.
Post-digging clay pit. Is it a garden yet?
Step 1 was defining the dimensions and removing the topmost layers of clay. Luckily, we have awesome neighbors, and they lent a hand with the skid steer. We then finished the edges by hand, and ended up with a nice open pit lined with clay. Whoopee.
The next step was filling it in with halfway decent soil. We found someone on Craig's List willing to bring a dump truck full of top soil for the low, low price of something we could afford. It was the best option we had.

Just Label Me 'Catholic'

This Bad Catholic post gave Wife and I a bit to talk about last night.
He basically said we need to drop the labels - conservative, liberal, traditional, orthodox, charismatic, etc. - from the word "Catholic." We are not "(insert adjective here) Catholics." We are all just Catholics.
While I agree with him in theory, there's just something lacking from his arguments.
I can't lump a Joe Biden or a Melinda Gates in with the volumes of folks who stand by the teachings of the Church. There's a difference in attitude and execution of the faith.
I lean toward "practicing" and "non-practicing."
Practice makes perfect.

"Practicing" implies a lot of things. Like the "recovering alcoholic," it's an assumption that in this life, we will never reach perfection. However, there is an subtlety implied in that by "practicing" we mean that we're actually working on it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Lunchtime Scything

Yesterday, I went out at lunch to scythe down some new hay that will line the Chick-u-bator. I picked a nice, long patch that the animals hadn't grazed yet:
For some reason, donkey just won't eat it....

In about 20 minutes with the scythe, I took down quite a bit:
The sheep ventured out of their lean-to and kept an eye on things in the background.

A nice, light, mid-day scythe workout. Ahhhhh.....
I'm going to let the fresh hay dry in windrows in the field for a few days, then bring it into the shed for the next time I need to change the Chick-u-bator lining.

The Homeschool Morning Checklist

Wife and I have been attempting to establish some order in the homeschool day lately. So we developed this handy little Excel sheet:
Making a list, and checking it twice.

It's been fantastic. We print out one a week. The kiddos have a routine, and they check off, each day, the things they need to do as they do them. Some days they're not ready quite at 9:00 (like today...9:15 and half done...), but hey - we take what we can get.
It one of our attempts to stop making homeschool feel like free range chicken herding.
So far, it's working out nicely.


So we got 26 chickens this spring. They came as day-old chicks from McMurray hatchery. I couldn't have asked for a better transaction - none died, none had pasty butt, and everyone was in excellent health.
I needed somewhere to incubate them. Enter: The Chick-u-bator.
The Chick-u-bator in all its glory

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor

I just finished reading Confessions of a Mega-Church Pastor by Allen Hunt last night. What a great read.
The premise of the book is the journey of a Methodist pastor from his role leading a huge church and radio show into becoming a Catholic in full communion with the Church.

What struck me about it is his discussions on authority. Mr. Hunt confesses (quite thematically, ha ha ha) that as a Methodist pastor, he was totally on his own in all doctrinal matters. He would decide whether or not to allow divorce and marriages, he decided what to preach about, and he decided, ultimately, what was moral for his church.
The one exception was the general congregation, where every four years, elected representatives would vote on changes to doctrine and morality.
As a Catholic, with the pope and the Magisterium, that's something I simply cannot wrap my head around.
How can a faith structure leave pastors high and dry like that? How can morality be up for a vote, ever? How can a church supposed based on the Bible as a source of authority even consider that morality can change?
He also talks about the 33,000 different protestant faiths, and poses an interesting question that I doubt most people consider: If I am protestant, what am I protesting?
For me, this was an excellent read into the mind of our separated brethren. Living in TN, I am part of the 6% of Catholics in the state. Understanding the other 94% goes a long way for me.
I finished the book with a prayer of thanks, and a prayer for unity.
God bless us all, and may He lead us home.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Grass, Hay, and Biodiversity

This is some of my grass.
Look at all those different, yummy grasses! Mmm-mmm!!

In my animal grazing area, I have at least a dozen different grasses, plus the occasional weed. This gives the animals a good, balanced diet.
I just can't fathom why some folks insist on feeding animals a single kind of hay. First of all, animals in their natural environment do not seek out and eat grasses that have been cut then dried for several weeks. They eat fresh. Uppity livestock types call it "forage" and caution about the amount that is "safe."
Gimme a break.
Second of all, animals do not eat one kind of grass only. They move from place to place eating first one kind, then another, and around and around until it eventually ALL gets eaten. The ones that taste best, or have needed nutrient content, go first. In a mixed environment, the animals take in all of the grasses, and get a far more balanced nutrient-rich diet.
As hay sits, nutrients leech out anyway. So the dry, single-species hay fed to static animals is a feedlot seriously impacts their overall health. Giving them fresh, diverse pastures lets them eat a natural, God-designed diet that encourages optimum health.
Oh yeah - they need water, too.

Rotate Them Pastures!

On my way home from work yesterday, I noticed a huge amount of bright yellow flowers in some pasture areas. The ones that did have them were infested. It was a sea of yellow throughout nearly the entire fenced-in area. And of course, the cows and horses do not eat them.
Flowers, flowers everywhere, but not a drop to ... eat.

But some pastures had none at all.
I had noticed this phenomenon last year, but I paid special interest this year.
What I noticed was that every area that was infested with yellow flowers also had livestock grazing it 24/7 over the winter. In other words, the fields were never, ever left to replenish themselves.
In such an environment, when the edible grasses are chewed to the dirt, they can't stay strong enough to out-compete the weeds.
For this reason (and many, many others), I use rotating paddocks via solar battery electric nets. I can let the grasses get tall and strong, and them let the animals come in and eat 'em up good. Then, they lay bare to regrow.
Just like in the Torah, God instructs the Israelites to give their fields time to rest and replenish. His design is not for anything to be "on" 24/7/365. Rather, everything must rest so His creative and regenerative power can go to work.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Twenty-Six of Stuff

So Wife just pointed out that we got 26 chickens last month, and in February, we got 26 fruit trees. Crazy, right?
But it gets weirder.
Because it's 2013. And 13 x 2 = 26.
And we got the trees in February (2), and the chickens in April (4). Two orders. And 2 + 4 = 6.
Mind. Blown.

Animal Friends

Our homestead is rapidly expanding this year. We've been here for just over two years, and have finally gotten to the point where we're adding our "infrastructure animals." The first wave is sheep and chickens.
I've had a donkey for about a year now, and he's been an excellent lawnmower. He is also there to provide some compost for us, and to keep the coyotes and foxes at bay.
These are my three little lambs. I'm weaning them off the bottles this week. The older two had their last one yesterday, so the inconsolable bleating should attract every predator this side of Memphis for the next few nights. Great.
From left, Meatloaf, Pot Pie, and Pancake.
The food names will make it easier when I send them off to Freezer Camp.

These three will breed the next generations of meat lambs. We plan to keep them through several lambings, until we get a new generation to start it all again with.
Here are the baby chicks. We got 26, mostly hens, but some roosters too to help keep the population going.
Yeah, I'm not naming 26 chickens. I still have a little sanity left...
So, our 5.4 acres are brimming with new little animal lives, and keeping things interesting already.
God bless.

Howdy, Alls Y'all

I wanted some way to chronicle my journey. Keeping a notebook, managing a fancy website, and using a Facebook profile just don't work for me.

So here we are.
I am a cradle Catholic, father of three, married ten years this year, and have lived in the TN countryside for the last two years. Before that, I lived in the suburbs in Virginia and Indiana. The last two years in the country have been a revolutionary experience for me and my family.
If you had told me three years ago that I would be working from home, bottle feeding sheep, running through the rain to take my donkey to his favorite tree, and planning out the best patch of grass to scythe for new chicken bedding, I'd had thought you were nuts.
But here I am.
Glad you're along for the ride, too. God bless.

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