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Macon County Chronicle Blogs
Gardening PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppens   
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I love thinking about land use and talking about gardening. It would be a laugh to say I’m taking these things more seriously, but I am getting paid to do them, now. The dire stresses on our society, health and environment from corporate food systems compel me to help start small organic farms and share my 40 years of ridiculously stupid gardening mistakes, and here is how I go about it.

After sniffing the air and glancing around a new farm, I sit down and interview the landowners. They are the most important part of land use. I save walking the farm for later, but first I need to get to know them and what they want.

I may ask “Why a re you incarnated on earth now?” in an effort to draw out a mission statement. Before I can help them achieve their dream, they have to verbalize it. We will discuss the belief systems they rely on for their decision-making, so the base care values that will dictate land use surface.

Specific goals become apparent as we work our way to a vision of the land ten years from now. A list is formed of likes and dislikes, which will help us keep their quality of life in mind. Finally we picture the other people involved, their present and future resources, and what they want to produce from the land. Now lets walk.

The land has been used for many centuries. Native Americans ringed unproductive tees, so the Eastern Hardwood Forest contained mostly mast-producing species like oak, chestnut and beech. They also cleared land for crops. European settlers cut down the forests and made pastures for livestock and much more cropland. Thinking about land use has been going on for a long time.

Most forests are whatever is left after several removals of eh best lumber. I observe the prevalent plant growth and not non-native invasives running amok. I usually explain how to rid the woods of poison ivy, which is by cutting the hairy vines off of the trees. Possible woodland crops are Shiitake Mushrooms, or herbs like ginseng, golden seal and black cohosh.

Most pastures are under grazed, an unusual concept for many new owners of land. Soils are formed from grass plants being grazed and then resting without grazing. Too much of either destroys the soils productive capacity. Of the farm has cleared land, it needs cattle. Their proper management supplies the fertility necessary for the whole farm.

Most garden spots are compacted, and now we discuss soil tilthe. Again, it is the grass plants that create good tilthe, it cannot be done by tillage. We till in a way that destroys the tilthe as little as possible. A rototiller is the worst, and most common, implement. I much prefer plowing slowly for preserving soil structure.

As we study the plants, nutrient deficiencies become noticeable. Remineralization will likely be required, so we look for sources of lime, rock phosphate, granite meal and other rock dusts. I’m a fan of kelp and I love compost. Manure, leaf mold, rotten wood chips and old hay can be found and used to improve the biology on the farm through composting.

I often recommend utilizing the neighbors’ cattle, tractor and organic matter. Let them run their livestock on your land, and manage hay fields, in return for some old manure and plowing your garden. A few baskets of tomatoes later on will sweeten the deal.

We’ll have to fence out deer, and think about other varmints. Looking at slope, aspects and sunshine, we’ll pick spots for an orchard, berries, vegetables, flowers and cold frames. After considering bees, chickens and larger livestock, I’ll try to talk them out of horses. Markets, machinery, buildings, labor and management may not be as fun as gardening, but it would have behooved me to think about them long before I did. I want to shorten the long learning curve (and wrong turns) I’ve traveled on.

I follow up with more thoughts in a week or two, and continue to help when needed. Introducing them to books, people and organizations, I try to draw them into the circle of new age, old time farmers who are changing the way we look at food and land use.

Gardening is fun to teach, because people really want to learn about it. They ask a lot of questions as I discuss minerals, tillage and biology. Varieties, mulching, weeding, insects and many other topics and techniques get covered. By building up our soil humus, we’ve grown 5 to 8 acres of vegetables with no irrigation for decades, and I love sharing and learning with others.

This year the classes will begin on Sunday, April 21, between 1 and 4 pm. We’ll hold them at Green Door Gourmet, which is on River Road, off of Charlotte Pike, exit 201 from I-40, west of Nashville. We also take interns on our farm in Red Boiling Springs, for a few days up to a few years.

Let’s fill up Middle Tennessee with organic and biodynamic farms and gardens for better health, meaningful work, and a clean environment. Although becoming a “local food” town, Nashvillians probably get less than 2% of their diet from local organic farms, we are on the right track and still have a long way to go.

“…We Need Help. Amen.” PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jimmy Cook   
Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Baptist preacher prayed this brief invocation at the Texas legislature on January 11, 1989:  “Our father please read our lips.  We need help.  Amen.”

            All kinds of statements are made in these times to describe the current mess coming out of D.C.  However, few of them actually describe the colossal mess the Liberal Democrats and Country Club Republicans have created for us while spending tax dollars like sowing wheat or oats.  Just last week we learned that the liberals in D.C. have included in the budget a million dollars for a study of which foods to eat on Mars so as to insure that those who make it there will not become sick.  Hey, Mars is uninhabited.  All the little green men live in D.C. and work at the White House.  God, “we need help.  Amen.”

            At a college job fair, a man bumped into one of his school’s guidance counselors.  I can’t seem to find a career that intrigues me,” he said.  “What are your interests?”  He asked.  “I like to take things apart,” the man said, “but I hate putting them back together.”

            “Son,” replied the advisor, “you ought to consider politics.”

            Well, from D.C. to the capital in each state, it seems that most of the politicians have this in common:  they like to tear things apart.  The administration in Tennessee’s capital seems to be bent on taking things apart—fixing things that aren’t broken.  The 87 adult education programs in our state have recently been reduced to less than 50.  Macon County has been thrown in with big Sumner County; in spite of the fact Macon’s adult education has been a great success with countless adults getting their GED degree.  Now, and how dumb, the same wrecking crew is working to do away with our fifteenth judicial district, forcing citizens of this district to travel countless miles to other towns for justice issues.  How stupid!  It isn’t broken; therefore, it doesn’t need fixing.  Neither are the adult education programs in Tennessee including Macon.  God, “we need help.  Amen.”

What Do You Do When Your World Is Turned Upside Down? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jimmy Cook   
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It happens, doesn’t it?  The best of people have their world turned upside down.  One of my favorite biblical passages is also very sad, yet real: “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).  Every day, all across the world, people are having their world turned upside down.  It may be a devastating storm, an accidental or premature death, an act of violence, or other countless things.  We all have this in common:  they turn our lives upside down.

            Over the past two years, I have been involved in events which have turned my life upside down.  First, our grandson was injured seriously in a wreck, leaving him paralyzed and perhaps unable to walk for life; then my wife had five bypasses, both resulting in multiple economic and emotional problems.  But by the grace of God we have survived.

            Senior citizens have had their world turned upside down by the Obama Administration—first, their insurance and now their Social Security is being threatened.  Did you know that if senior’s today have their social security taken away that 51.4% of seniors in Kentucky will be living in poverty, while 54.8% in Tennessee will be living in poverty.  When FDR pushed the Social Security Act through congress, it was his aim for it to be a retirement fund and to be paid in during the working years of a person’s life, not to be squandered by liberal politicians in the future.  Four billion dollars wasted on golf trips and vacations in over five years, and now the elderly are being threatened by the same people who have wasted America’s wealth.  The only answer is to be found in the grace of God.  We must not give in to the ruthless and corrupt politicians of today, but stand our ground and seek guidance and help from God who has the power to undo the liberals, the radical Muslims, and the drones which some in DC are using to threaten Americans. 

            Paul and other apostles turned the world upside down with the gospel—that was the right way, and that is the way we must pursue, and not be overcome by those who are trying to turn our world upside down in an effort to overcome us.  These people want to turn us upside down to control us.  Let’s be Christians and stand our ground for righteousness.  I’ll never give in to the conspiracy for the radical Muslims to take over America and make it an Islamic State governed by Islamic Laws.  I’ll never give in to the doctrine that Islam is as good as Christianity, and that their founder is as good as Jesus Christ.  The fact is, and it doesn’t frighten me to write this, Christianity is the only religion of Devine authority.  All the others have their origin in the twisted minds of men seeking power.

            The Judgment will reveal the truth.

Chapter I PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppen   
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

After gratefully appreciating the hosts of this lecture series, the first thing Steiner makes clear is that no one should talk about agriculture unless they have a sound basis in it, and really know what it means to grow grain, potatoes or beats. He includes the social aspects, the organizational aspects, and the economic principles.

The social aspects of agriculture are mentioned first, and echo Tolstoy’s observation that the people involved are of the utmost importance. Society in rural areas develops out of families. Everyone knows each other and their peculiar talents, habits, and personalities. This allows for an equitable distribution of work and goods because it is all on such a small, community-based scale.

Agriculture and civilization grew up together and remain inseperable. In several passages, Steiner describes himself as a peasant, and honors the wit, observational skills and instinct of country people. He goes so far as to credit his education more from this than the extensive academic training he consquently acquired.

Recent history suggests that when peasants move to cities, the practical intelligence they bring with them creates an economic boom for that country, lasting approximately two generations. We saw this in Europe during the industrial revolution, later in America and now in Asia. Education removed from agriculture loses its sound basis.

How a rural society takes care of itself remains best left to those who are farming there. Humbleness, compassion and practical sense become ingrained in one who cares for land, plants and animals. Not that something can’t be learned from urban environments, but social aspects are generally kinder in the country, and best left up to them.

The same is true or organizational aspects of a farm. It seems obvious that those who are in constant touch with the land should be the ones who know what to do. Again, insights gained from the synergy of city talent (with roots inevitably in farming) can be gleaned through by farm organizers, who can use what they need.

But it lowers quality, happiness and health for non-farmers to organize farms. The detrimental effects of agribusiness demonstrate this quite clearly. Organizing for short term profit rather than long term sustainability creates disorganization on farms.

Look at the word organize, and you can find organic. Life arises through organization. Who will best organize a farm so it consistently yields high quality crops and remains able to do so with a minimum of inputs? The farmer will.

The economic principles in farming also need to remain in the hands of the growers. They are the ones who know how much it costs to grow it again. Too much interference by middlemen, marketers, and giant corporations is always paid for by those practicing agriculture.

Supply and demand create price fluctuations that don’t reflect the costs of production. First and foremost this must be covered. Farming need not be gambling. Once the farmer is fairly compensated, then and only then should others concern themselves with the price of farm products.

Steiner affinity with Goethe surfaces when he mentions influences coming from the entire universe affecting what people erroneously consider to be self-contained entities. A pre-requisite to understanding the biodynamic method is the realization that all things in nature are interconnected. Instinctual knowledge reflects their truth, and science seems to be coming around.

For example, the rare English Bluebell is now known to acquire 15 different species of fungi to be present in the soil for it to grow. Some of these fungi stretch out for miles underground. Construction at a distance of five miles from the patch cuts off the fungal hyphae and kills the English Bluebells.

The inter workings of nature are the study of farmers, centuries of observation have led to crop and animal rotations, the proper utilization of the various species and the secrets of manuring. The introduction ends with more pouring out of gratitude and the notion that the instincts farmers had were quite specific and reliable. They were part of the interrelationship in nature.

Barefoot Farmer’s Long Hungry Creek Farm PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Poppen   
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

It was 20 years ago today, the newspaper gave me the new name. I write about my compost pile, but I’m guaranteed to raise a smile. So may I introduce to you the farm you’ve known for all these years, Barefoot Farmer’s Long Hungry Creek Farm.

We get by with a little help from our friends. The farm runs on love, from my best friends who work here with me, to all the helpful neighbors, eager apprentices and appreciative customers. Would you believe in our farm at first sight? Yes, I’m certain that it happens all the time.

Picture yourself on a farm in a garden with berries and trees and vegetable crops. Beautiful flowers of yellow and green towering over your head must be a row of sunflowers. Newspaper columns appear every week waiting to take you away, into a world of organic living and caring for the landscape.

It’s getting better all the time. Our soils are getting better with gentle tillage, remineralization and biodynamic compost. I’ve learned how to improve the soil tilthe and humus, raising the sugar content of the crops so that insects and diseases don’t bother them.

I’m fixing a hole where the cows get out and stop my mind from wondering. Where did they go? Agriculture requires cattle, and I’ve been chasing mine around for forty years. They are teaching me about rotational grazing. The realization that ruminants excrete more fertilizers than their own crops require gave rise to the domestication of animals and the dawn of civilization.

They’re leaving home after living together for so many years. This log cabin has been the home of my family, and a bunch of friends. Most recently, I’ve been blessed to have two young grandchildren staying here with me and helping with the chores. We are all leaving this home, and four other families from our neighborhood are leaving their homes, too.

For the benefit of the chicken fight there have been shows at night several times. From the benefits in Nashville to out gatherings at the Armour Hotel, donations and support have poured in. the common threat has brought a diverse group of people together. As one of the community members said “The chickens came and families had to move, but we have made lifelong friendships. We won!”

We are talking about the space between us all and the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion. Lots of people are realizing the environmental and economic disaster that the corporate control of food has caused, but many are still unaware. In our local history, gardens and small farms created a culture around meals that also generated income and caring for the land. Healthy farms won’t want CAFO’s, gas fracking and other menaces threatening Tennessee.

Doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more? Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64. Farming requires long-term thinking. We make decisions based on what will be happening on our farm twenty years later, not by sacrificing the future for short-term profit.

Lovely Rita by the creek, give us a wink and make me think of you. Hundreds of students and thousands of visitors make their way to the Long Hungry Creek. Many have fallen in love here and consequently we’ve had several weddings. Farms are for people, protecting nature and building a future.

Nothing to do to save the farm put your arms down. Going to work, got weeds to pull, it’s a hoedown. I’m going o move into the old Purcell house on Heady Ridge, after we fix it up. I will live again on the big farm and have my good mornings near the chickens, pigs and cows. As for the 40,000 chickens 450 feet from where I live now, the Tysons executives were certainly correct when they told me, “It will stink.”

We’re Barefoot Farmer’s Long Hungry Creek Farm, we’re sorry but it’s time to go. We’d like to thank you once again. The tremendous empathy and compassion you all have given me in the last two successful years has touched my heart. It has given me the strength, courage and hope to continue to work for a healthy agriculture throughout Middle Tennessee.

I read the news today, oh boy, about a lucky man who had a farm. And though the news was rather sad, I just had to laugh, I saw the photograph. A giant CAFO dwarfed Tennessee’s most famous gardens, with three hundred acres where it could have gone. I’d love to turn you on to homegrown, organic produce, an d help you learn to grow your own, without the Beatles.

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