Category Archives: agriculture

Those wyr the best dayes of mie lyf


Sumer is Icumen In!

By Danièle Cybulskie

When I hear people talk about the Middle Ages, I get the impression that most people picture it as a time of mud and dreariness, in which people slogged miserably through their daily lives. While mud would certainly have been a big part of reality, there was also beauty, liveliness, and entertainment.

One of the most famous pieces of music that has survived is a Middle English song about summer: “Sumer is Icumen In”. Like us, medieval people were overjoyed at the coming of warm weather, and all of the loveliness that comes with it. Here are the lyrics (in Middle English, and in my own translation):

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu!

Awe bleteþ after lomb
Lhouþ after calue cu
Bulluc sterteþ bucke uerteþ
Murie sing cuccu
Cuccu cuccu
Wel singes þu cuccu
Ne swik þu nauer nu

Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

Summer has come in!
Loudly sing “Cuckoo!”
The seeds are growing, the meadow is blowing,
And the wood is springing newly.
Sing, “Cuckoo!”

The ewe is bleating after the lamb,
The cow is lowing after the calf,
The young bull is jumping, the buck is farting,
Merrily sing, “Cuckoo!
Cuckoo! Cuckoo!”
You sing well, “Cuckoo!”
Don’t ever stop now!

Sing, “Cuckoo!” now, sing “Cuckoo!”
Sing, “Cuckoo!” Sing, “Cuckoo” now!

Now, I do wonder if the whole “farting” thing might have been supposed to be more like “snorting”, but medieval people did like their fart jokes (just watch or read one of their plays, and you can see for yourself!).


Filed under agriculture, Europe, Language, Medieval, Middle Ages

Californian saves Japanese family farms in WWII

“a former California agriculture inspector who, ignoring the resentment of neighbors, quit his job in the middle of World War II to manage the fruit farms of Japanese families forced to live in internment camps”

read more here

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What gives? Amazon won’t publish this review

I’ve tweaked this review a couple of times and re-submitted it, but Amazon responds with a no-go. You tell me. What’s wrong with this review? The book is “The King of Prussia and a Peanut Butter Sandwich” by Alice Fleming.

Russian Mennonites and Kansas Wheat, May 24, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The King of Prussia and a Peanut Butter Sandwich (Paperback)

This is a read-aloud or a young reader’s book that traces the steps of a group of Mennonites, from Germany to Russia to Kansas. The reason for the trekking was the Mennonites’ conviction against participation in military service- a point which the book makes clear. Frederick the Great inaugurated mandatory military service which the Mennonites were unwilling to perform. Catherine the Great of Russia offered the Mennonites exemption from military service for 100 years in exchange for developing the Crimean Peninsula for agricultural purposes.

The story doesn’t focus exclusively on the religious beliefs of the Mennonites. Farming is the second track that carries this train. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was the telling of how the Mennonite children sifted through sacks of wheat grain looking for the best specimens in preparation for the move to Kansas.

About half of the book is illustrations, which engaged the children.

“King of Prussia” fit in well with our homeschool curriculum. Appearances are made by historical figures/events Ulysses S. Grant, Kansas Grasshopper Plague of 1874 (circa the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder books), emerging nationalism in Europe. And Frederick and Catherine, too.

There isn’t actually any peanut butter sandwich in the story. The author is trying to connect the wheat of the story with daily fare of the child reading the book.

The binding is a little unusual. It has no spine because it is a staple-bound kind of book. But the book seems just a little too large to go spineless. It makes it a little difficult to keep on the book shelf because of this feature. All the same, I think that its a piece of history that is rare to find in children’s books, and it is worth owning.



Filed under agriculture, children, Homeschool, religion, social media

See the animals

we enjoy having our patrons come out and see the animals slaughtered. Actually, the 7- to 12-year old children have no problem slitting throats while their parents cower inside their Prius listening to “All Things Considered.” Who is really facing life here?

– Joel Salatin in interview w Mother Earth News full interview

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Part 3: Ranching: The Basis of Sorrow

“Of all the passions, sadness causes the most injury to the soul.” – Thomas Aquinas

The news of the missing steer brought me to reflect on the universal curse of sin and the unlikely prospects for happiness while still in this mortal coil. But as Emile Cioran said in ‘A Short History of Decay’, “We change ideas like neckties.”

My thoughts moved from the existential to the practical. Where were my 3yr old and my 5yr old daughters who, 15 minutes earlier, were directed to remain on the porch? And how quickly were the temps dropping and the daylight fading? And how far could a 500 lb steer have gotten in a quarter hour? And how much time was I morally obligated to spend in the predictably fruitless task of searching for an escaped steer possessed of the spirit of Houdini? What would Aquinas say about that one?

I found the girls and we piled into the cab of the truck. My son climbed onto the flatbed and we rumbled out into the field. Slowly, we traced the perimeter of the six acres of thick, brushy woods. Occasionally, we thought we heard the animal calling to us, like a siren through the splash and foam of the breakers. But we were only fooling ourselves.

We completed our circuit and began to slowly cruise the country road, peering into the neighbors’ fields, examining the barbed wire fencing for breaches. We came up with nothing.

The children loved it. We made U-turns in the road, circled the block, criss-crossed our earlier paths. Eventually, we parked the truck and went inside. Bathroom breaks were in demand and the girls needed long sleeves. We then began a search on foot; perhaps the diesel engine spooked “Brownie”.

We began strolling down the road- again. We saw the same cows from earlier, but no steer with the necessary markings.

Then our neighbor came by. He hopped out of the truck and began a search on bicycle. While he did that, we decided to go back to the truck and interrogate another neighbor. So even if we never would find the steer, we were still building community!

After making no headway with the other neighbor, darkness had covered the sky and we retired to the house. No steer. That night we slept.

Sunday morning came. Still no steer. We went to church. “Call the sheriff.” “Maybe someone has him penned and reported him missing.” “Put feed cubes in a bucket and shake them while walking around the field. He might come out of the brush when he hears food.” “Cows can smell sweet feed anywhere.” “He might be stolen.” “Cows can break your heart.”

We left church. On the way home, we saw him. We were two miles from the house and, on the shoulder of a long, sweeping bend in the road, our steer was tossed in a pile, dead. I stopped to examine him.

It was curious, and I’ll never know how it happened. It looked like a gunshot wound to the head. There were no tire marks on the road, no tracks in the grassy shoulder. Had the steer been wounded but not killed by a truck, and then mercifully put down with a gun? Had a hunter mistaken him for a deer and then disposed of him on the road? Was I simply misreading the signs? I still wonder, even today.

We finished the drive home in silence. We had found the steer. Our search was over.

Ranching is pain, and yet we return to it. We are turned to destruction. Even so, for all that we ranchers lost, Brownie lost more.

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Filed under agriculture, autobiography, children, community, philosophy

Part 2- Ranching: The Basis of Sorrow

I ran down the driveway toward the road as my 7 yr old son gave me the intelligence. The “breed cow” had run from the pen on the northeast corner toward the southcentral part of the land, then ran back northeast and onto the county road. The steer- Brownie- was still in the pen. When I arrived at the road, puffing like a somewhat overweight man in his thirties, I saw the cow, black against the early fall scenery. Actually, she was quite scenic: head alert and held high; muscles tense; partially hidden among the tall grass in the low ditch. Surrounded by green fields hemmed in by colorful oaks, she looked regal.

I inspected the fence for breaches, and quickly discovered a large one. The cow would stay put in the grass, I knew, so I took my time, opened the gates and lumbered back to the house for the truck.

Upon arriving at the house, I gave quick orders to the children to stay on the porch. Three of the five were with me while my wife was shopping in town, so I felt a little overextended in my responsibilities. “stay,” I directed. “Stay on the porch. I’m going to get Blackie.”

As I entered the road, the cow heard the diesel motor and began running away, down the road, away from the house. I accelerated, passed her, circled back and intimidated her along the fence line until she found the open gates to her pen and took refuge right back into her little 2 acre paradise.

I hopped out of the truck, closed the gates, and went to the cow shelter to find Brownie the Steer.

But there was no Brownie. I waved Benjamin over to me. “Was the steer out with the bred cow?”

“Yes, she [the steer] was by the chicken pen.”

To Be continued.

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Ranching: The Basis of Sorrow

It’s no wonder that country music is sterotypically melancholy.

On Saturday, I broke my 7 year hiatus and again took up the art of ranching. Right now, we are running approximately one head, to use rancher parlance. That’s down from Saturday’s seven-year high of 2 head. Yes, within hours of beginning ranching anew, one head of cattle had already died.

We live on 28 acres, most of which is open fields of coastal grass. Over the summer, we partitioned off a 2 acre lot with barbed wire, gates, animal stalls and water tanks. I still have plans to reinvigorate the old shallow water well near the pens, but as of now, we are going to limp along with the 150 ft garden hose. We are prepared for winter with lots of hay from the field and a minimal amount of cattle knowledge from years past.

So, down to the auction (auwshkin, according to the 3 yr old) we went- “we” being me and four young children. That’s an adventure in itself, but suffice it to say that we came home much poorer with a 4 yr old bred beef cow and a 500 pound steer. The steer we planned to eat in a few months, after it doubled in size; the cow we plan to keep as a calf producer. The cow is scheduled to calve in late March, which is perfect for beginner ranchers: fresh grass and warm weather in abundance.

An hour after penning the creatures, my son came inside with news that the cows were out of their pen. Acute buyer’s remorse exploded within me, only to quickly give way to the more natural machismo of my inner cowboy. To be continued…

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