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Books for all of us

I find reading and self educating to be one of the most important things you can in your life. I believe we should read a little about every thing most importantly read and educate your self about view points other then your own but if you are on this site you are probably interested in homesteading and sustainable living, so here are my personal favorite books that I have read and listened to (its hard to weed your garden with a book in one hand).



“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A year of Food Life Barbara Kingsolver
I guess you could sum this book up as one family, one year one county. Barbara and her family go on a yearlong journey of eating only local food, very local food. This book is great for anyone who wants more information on the financial feasibility of locally sourced food or how to get the entire family on board with local agriculture.

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” Michael Pollan
The bible of food sourcing, Micahel Pollan gives it all a try, where does fast food beef come from? A certified organic chicken from a store? A local pasture raise animal? Vegetarian or vegan what helps the Earth? How is killing your own food humane? He doesn’t just state facts and talk to experts he lives 4 very different meals that are truly life styles. For anyone considering a lifestyle change weather you want to go raw vegan or go out in the woods and shoot a bear and eat him this book will shed some light on the truth behind all types of food sourcing.

“Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World” Joel Salatin
From homesteader to those who live in a NYC high rise this book is a must read. To all those who preach about their carbon foot print or how they support organic farmers, well you’re probably going about it horribly wrong. Joel’s sense of humor and blunt writing style make this an easy read, or listen, I listened to this book while driving home from California and let’s just say I took Joel’s advice. Each chapter is ended with Joel setting simple steps as to how we can live a better life and change the world we live in. The most important thing I took from this book is everyone should grow something, even if that means one vegetable plant on your high rise balcony. I have had the pleasure to meet Joel and his son Daniel on their iconic farm in the Shenandoah Valley and I must say he is the real deal.

“Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, And Saving The Family Farm” Forrest Pritchard
The story of a man rejuvenating the family farm, a true story of struggle hard work and persistence

“The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love” Kristin Kimball
This book is farming in the raw, yup I said it, do you want to know what it’s like to wake up to see your own animals grazing in your vegetable garden or know what it is like to chase livestock down the street in a pair of shorts and rubber boots? Kristin does an amazing job not holding any punches when she describes what it is really like on a true organic farm in the North East.

Fishy Fish?

fishy fish market

When it comes to seafood, it can be hard to make an informed decision for the conscious buyer.  Many New Englanders want to enjoy the local seafood catch that the region has enjoyed for generations.  There are many choices on the market, but one should consider the state of the fishery before making a purchase.  While it may seem responsible to buy local, it is not always the case with seafood.

A brief history is needed in order to understand your choices. Fishing for groundfish such as cod and haddock has been going on in the North Atlantic Ocean for centuries.  When the Colonies of the Americas were founded they knew that they had an excellent resource for fish in the Gulf of Maine, Georges Bank and the Grand Banks.  The fish were so abundant that they viewed the resource as unending.  Using colonial techniques, this may have been true.  As boat and fishing technology advanced, fishermen were able to land more fish in a trip, and make more frequent trips.


Many fishermen believe that as long as they are catching fish, then there must be a population that can reproduce.   Fishermen can be insulted when a scientist tells them that the fish population has severely declined because that fishermen knows exactly where to go to find a school of these fish to fill his boat, and make money to feed his family.  These fisherman have been able to influence regulators of the fisheries to keep fisheries open with the help of economic arguments.  For instance, the cod fishery was completely closed when fisheries managers determined that the population was almost completely depleted to avoid a crash of the waterfront economy.


Fish population decimation has had trickle down effects on other marine life communities.  A very recognizable effect of this has been seen in lobsters, no longer hindered by predators like cod.  The catch of lobsters has risen steadily over the past few decades.  This has created what many people call a sustainable fishery.  It may be possible to harvests millions of pounds of lobsters every year, but it is based on an marine ecosystem that has been altered by centuries of fishing.


The key to sustainable fisheries is proactive management.  Look into the species you are interested in and research the management.  Wild caught fisheries are still abundant resource, we just must be wise about which species to eat.    As always, fresh fish is the best tasting, so find a market that has a good source for what you are interested in.


Unfortunately there is no easy answer to choosing a responsibly harvested fish.  Be sure to ask your fishmonger what the source of his products are.  Don’t assume that a species was locally harvested just because you are at a local fish market.  Talk to fishermen and see what they are catching “too much” of.  Get creative with whats available to help bring the balance of species back into balance. I will finish with a short list of tasty ocean creatures which are currently good choices for wild caught species in New England:


1. Lobster – currently abundant and locally caught

2. Dogfish “Cape Shark” – freshness is key with this small shark

3. Soft-shell Clams “steamers”  – limited to hand harvest

Richard May has worked as a freshwater fisheries technician, managed  shellfish harvests in Downeast Maine, and is currently working in stormwater management.  

Can we feed the world without killing it? yes and we can make it better then ever

With all this doom and gloom about global warming and climate changed there is still hope.  This hope does not come from the point of a politicians pen or from a technology to spray the atmosphere with carbon absorbing chemicals, it comes from the farm.  This last vestige of hope this last community that can save us will be the true farmers that combine the old with the new, think out side the box and put their hearts into the land.

In 2010 I saw the documentary “Food Inc” for the first time, at the heart of the movie is Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm. I was intrigued buy the idea to go back to older farming methods and blend them with modern technology I looked Joel’s Farm up and found that the PolyFace visitor policy was that the farm was open at all times. I took Joel up on this, and one early fall Saturday I drove out to the Shenandoah Valley to his pristine farm that him and his family have been practicing rejuvenating agriculture on now for 3 generations.  When I arrived at Polyface, Joel came up and greeted me, I told him I was here to walk around just like you claim on your website, he said “I’m busy right now but feel free to go where ever you like.” I was later able to talk to Joel’s son Daniel who runs the farm now and it was quick to see Salitins were great people and 100% farmers. I would not be on the path I am today if I did not visit his farm.

Happy new year

Its a new year crazy to think its 2016, closing in on two years here on the farm.  The amount I have learned about farming, animals and myself has been immense truly hard to explain in words. Lets hope for a peaceful and spiritually prosperous 2016.



The importance of a good dog

Man’s best friend, and how that is so true when you find the right dog for you.  I first saw an Australian Cattle Dog when I was about 12 watching the movie Mad Max Road Warrior, I’m not big on TV but that movie is a classic and makes you think where the world is heading, the plot of the movie is people are killing each other over fuel and water.  In the iconic seen Max played by Mel Gibson is a decoy driving an old “Cab over” tractor trailer across the desert to distract the evil enemies while his friends get away, Max is down on ammo and has been down on luck since the movie began but he looks over to his shot gun rider and sees is ever loyal buddy; an Australian Cattle Dog.

The importance of a dog on a farm is endless and I’m going to skip the sentimental stuff on this post. I will come back to that some other day.

Rodney watching over the broiler chickens

Here on the Four Corners Farm we have an Australian Cattle Dog named Rodney.  He is a total clown and can most always be found chasing a cat or chewing on giant stick that fell from a sugar maple tree but he is priceless as a farm asset.

If you have a farm you will contend with animals, wild ones that do not care that you are trying to help the land. At the end of the day deer need to eat and your beat greens look pretty tasty, coyotes and foxes need to feed their pups and your ducks are easier to catch than a roughed grouse or grey squirrel.

A common trait amount cattle dogs is their alertness, Rodney likes to just sit and watch the field, when he was younger I had no idea what he was doing but as he grew to full size and mental maturity it is evident his desire to protect the farm is strong.  He first proved his metal after a thunder storm this past July, it was extremely humid and I had just gone in the hose to eat dinner with a friend that had stopped by the farm after work, suddenly he started yelling, “fox, Fox and Rodney is right on him” I thought that he meant Rodney was close to him and didn’t den realize but as I got to the window I realized Rodney was on the chase, he had transformed into something I never thought he had in him, in the blink of an eye he had chased the fox out of the field, and he was not trying to chase him down to play, when I called Rodney back in my faithful little warrior immediately spun around and came home.  When he got back to the house his adrenalin was through the roof and paced around like a boxer into he ring and a proud look in his eye. Similar situations occurred over and over this past summer, some times Rodney would charge out at an entire pack of coyotes, this made me nervous and I would often be following behind in the dark sparsely dressed with a a rifle and a flashlight calling for my brave buddy to come back in he always did.

How to train:

As a pup Rodney wanted to chase everything, can’t blame him its in his blood. He was shockingly easy to train on what was ok to chase and what was meant to be protected, it just takes time.  I simply did not allow him to chase chickens (pigs he still is not sure what to do with, but from my reading most dogs don’t know what to do with a 250 pound animal that is as clever as a cat). Any time he chased the chickens I was always near by to immediately scowled him with a sharp “no”.  The key to this was to be around him when he was around the chickens, and start the dog young. Rodney was less than six months when he was around chickens for the first time so most of his life he has understood that chickens were not chew toys.   When your dog barks don’t instantly correct him, its their job! Dogs have been used as an early warning since ancient times and a quick bark at a strange noise is ok.  Praise your dog when with a dog bone, a belly rub or what ever your dog likes after they bark at take chase (and come back when called) after a predator.  I do not let Rodney chase deer, ever. Deer do come into the garden and a quick bark is enough for them to disappear in the night so why have  your dog stress out an animal for no reason.

What ever bread you pick do your home work and be prepared to give your dog more time then you give your self and they will give back to you every thing their giant hearts have.


“you love being a farmer”

FullSizeRender (8)Farming; many think of it as rows of corn and green tractors, maybe a country song or a funny cartoon. To the farmer, to the true steward of the land, it’s the fertile dirt under his nails after planting tomato plants late into the night, a sack of feed across her back as she walks to the animals as the sun breaks the horizon and spreads its golden rays across a pasture. It’s a child eating a giant tomato right off the plant, It’s the confident demeanor of a rooster as he leaves the coop to sacrifice himself to a predator. Its watching a new born calf take its first breaths as its mother curls her head around it and nudges it to suckle for the first time, it’s a tree giving everything it can to heat your family through a long winter. Its seeing the Earth smile as you heal your small patch of land. It’s giving more than you take, having faith in yourself and in your land, its farming.