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Archive for the ‘On the Farm’ Category

We Have Chickens!

We have chickens!

We’ve added ten hens to our little backyard “farm”. And thanks to Dave Bissette for the coop design from Catawba Coops. The two coops (5 chickens in each) were a fairly easy build (says the girl who didn’t help build them at all). They are like little “chicken tractors” that we can move around the yard to allow the chickens access to fresh ground and fresh bug hunting. They roost in the top with a nesting box on each side that opens from the outside to gather the eggs.

Any day now, these little ladies should begin laying some eggs, so next year we should be able to sell some eggs along with our veggies. And we should have plenty of chicken manure to add to our compost pile and that ought to make our garden very happy!

And the growing season is in full swing here.

We’re considering this our “practice year” before we actually try to farm a slightly larger plot of land and begin selling produce next year. We’ve been weighing all the produce we harvest to track yields and we’re trying to visit some of the local farmer’s markets to see what’s being sold and meet some people already in the business. It’s still very overwhelming to think about trying to make this a business and not just a hobby, but at least the plan is to start small and “grow” this business slowly (pun intended). And if this really is where the Lord wants us, then I’ll rest in the promise of Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” To His glory.

So far, we’ve pulled in several pounds of lettuce, kale, swiss chard, beets, carrots, onions, and even more pounds of squash and tomatoes.

Picking green beans

Beets and onions

Did I mention we have onions?

You can’t have a garden without flowers!

And berries!

We have some sweet friends on Fredonia Mountain who let us come up to their place to pick blackberries and we came home with nearly 15 pounds of berries! And we went out to our family farm where there is a blueberry patch that was planted about 40 years ago. It’s still a little early for these blueberries, but we managed to come home with 5 ½ pounds.

The bushes have grown quite tall over the past 40 years. Perhaps some pruning is in order!

Our cute little berry pickers.

So now we have a freezer full of berries as well as several jars of jam. If you’re local, you should come sample our new experiment: Backberry-Rosemary Jam. It sounds strange, but it’s good. We got the idea from a vendor at the Wake Forest Farmer’s Market when we were in North Carolina.

The 4th of July is next week, so that means more blueberry-picking and a parade! This whole town comes out for the 4th of July festivities here. I’ve been coming to the parade here for as long as I can remember and sitting on the front porch of what was then my grandparents house to visit with people and watch the celebrations at the courthouse down the street. This year, it’s our own front porch, our own town, and our own neighbors we’ll be celebrating with. If you’ll be in town on the 4th, stop by the front porch for some tea or lemonade and visit with us for a while!

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Hello friends. Below is something that had begun as a personal journal entry for myself that dealt with my own fears and lack of faith about this farm dream that God had planted in our minds. My mom read it and asked to share it on the women’s ministry blog for her church. Since it’s gone public now, I thought I would post it on our personal blog as well. It’s been revised a bit from the original journal entry in order to give those who don’t know our story a chance to catch up to where we are now.

As I re-read it now, the words may sound good, but it’s the follow-through that counts. Please pray that we can have the faith and obedience to follow-through on this dream that (in my mind) seems so far-fetched and out-of-reach. Here’s the entry:

Five months ago, my husband and I took a huge leap of faith. We left our life in North Carolina and moved to the tiny town of Dunlap, TN with a dream to start a farm with some family property. We moved with no job lined up and planned on living in a century-old family house that was falling apart (literally).

Fast forward to now, my husband has secured a job and we are now residing comfortably in the house with a partial new foundation as well as countless other improvements. It has been purely a demonstration of the Lord’s faithfulness and provision that got us to where we are now.

Yet, I still feel like one of the Israelites grumbling about starving to death in the desert after God brought them out of Egypt with such a mighty show of His power.

We’ve cleared the first hurdles of getting here (which included selling our house in North Carolina in only five days) and getting Allen a job (which came from a contact he made 6 years ago while still in college) and seen God help us over those hurdles in amazing ways. But now we have what seems to me the biggest hurdle still to clear: starting what we hope will be a non-profit farm geared toward investing in the lives of youth in our community (through job skills and leadership training) as well as providing food for the poor.

So Allen and have been praying for clarity to come for this vision and how we think God wants us to use this place for His glory. This morning, I was doing my reading in a devotional book called “A Year with God” by Richard Foster and Julia Roller.  In God’s good timing, I began the section on “Guidance.” So I read three day’s worth of entries. Here are some of the things I read:

“Obviously God must guide us in a way that will develop spontaneity in us. The development of character, rather than direction in this, that, and the other matter, must be the primary purpose of the Father. He will guide us, but he won’t override us…The parent must guide in such a manner, and to the degree, that autonomous character, capable of making right decision for itself, is produced. God does the same.” *

“Although there is nothing we can do to force a dream or a vision or God’s still small voice, one way in which we can open ourselves to God’s guidance is by studying the way those in the Bible have heard from God…’we must pray for the faith and for the experiences that would enable us to believe that such things could happen to us. Only then will we be able to recognize, accept, and dwell in them, when they come.’” *

From Jeremiah 1:4-8 about the call of the boy, Jeremiah:

“When the prophet speaks, in response to the call of God, his first word is a word of resistance. The one called for divine work immediately senses his limitations for that work. He tries to beg off, listing his inadequacies.” *

This is where I stand now, I think. I have scales on my eyes. I see only my inadequacies and not God’s abilities. When I think about the idea of running a non-profit farm, I think only of the ways in which I am not equipped or qualified to do it:

  • I have no business skills, very few job skills even since I have been out of the workforce raising kids for almost 5 years
  • I’ve never farmed anything larger than 900 ft2
  • I have no idea how to run a non-profit
  • People will think it’s crazy. It won’t be received well by the community
  • We live in a rural area where most of the youth around us are trying to get away from farming, not into it
  • It’s going to be really hard and take a lot of work

But…

“God tends, it would appear from stories of vocation in Scripture, almost always to call people who are too young, too timid (that’s me:-/), too old, or too immoral. The story is not about the singular virtues of the one being called. The story is about a risk-taking, bold sort of God who reaches in and calls people for divine service, giving them what they need for that service…God equips and stands behind those whom God calls. This is the sort of God who says, in effect, ‘I’m getting ready to change, revolutionize, renovate, and reorient the whole world-and guess who’s going to help me?’” *

So…let’s go for broke. If I continue to live “safely” and comfortably, living a life without risk, at the end of my life, people will say, “She was a good girl. She was involved in church. She was nice to people.” If I continue to live without risk, then I’m living in my own power, not in God’s power. And what does that teach my children? Does it teach them that God is able to do what we ask in His name? Or does it teach them to live without risk because we’re on our own and we have no God who fights our battles for us?

But if we take this big risk, believing that God can and will do something great for His name’s sake, even through someone as afraid and unqualified as me, then I will have made room for God to show Himself great and glorious. Then, at the end of my life people will say “She had faith that God was bigger than she was. She walked in obedience to her calling. Her life showed that God was powerful and merciful in using even the most unqualified. Her life showed that it is not in man’s power, but in God’s power that we do anything.” And this will teach my children that things that are impossible with man are possible with God (Mt. 19:26, Mark 10:27 Luke 18:27). And at the end of my life, I will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21, Luke 19:17).

So I want to live big because God is big. I want to take a risk, step out of my comfort zone, and expect that God can overcome my inadequacies, overcome the obstacles and opposition we might face and show Himself great and glorious. I want to take a risk and see what He will do in my life and the lives of others for His name’s sake. I want to show my children that when we are obedient to God’s calling, whatever the cost (be it hardship, opposition from friends or family, or merely giving up a life of ease and comfort), God is faithful and He will equip us and walk with us through the hardship and He will be our reward for a life well lived.

“Father God, you who call the last people anyone would expect, here I am. As underqualified as I feel to do anything for your world, help me to do the work for which I was created. Give me the courage to hear and answer your call. Speak, for your servant is listening.” *

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

*Excerpts taken from A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines by Richard J. Foster and Julia L. Roller © 2009 by Renovaré, Inc. p. 146-148

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Christmas came early for the Jones family! We’ve had some very exciting things happen today. First, I got a call this morning from the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and Allen and I have both received scholarships to attend their conference in Little Rock, AR in January. They normally only award one scholarship per farm, but we apparently impressed them with our vision and were graciously awarded two scholarships (thank you Jesus). They have many programs at the conference that are geared toward young and start-up farms. If you want to see what we’ll be learning, click here. So, in a few short weeks we’ll begin our first lessons on how to be real farmers!

Second, Allen has a job interview with the City of Chattanooga! His interview is the Thursday after Christmas, so here’s hoping for the best!

Lastly, Allen received his documentation in the mail today that he is now an official Registered Landscape Architect. He took his licensure exams this past summer and passed on the first round for all exams (I’m going to brag here-there’s only a 30% pass rate for first time test-takers)! So now he has his own license number and he’s legit, which should help in the job hunt. As one friend of his commented on hearing the news: “Congratulations, now you can get sued!”

Praise God for his goodness and mercy as he leads us on this journey!

On another note, here’s a construction update from Allen. We have to be out of our apartment by the end of January, so our move-in date for the house in January 28. Let the countdown begin! 39 days!

We’re on the rise:

The month of December has been a busy one at 89 Spring St.  Since our last post, the house has been lifted four inches.  The process has been fairly simple, but the labor has been quite involved.  28 feet of the outer sill on the north wall has now been removed and replaced with a new pressure-treated sill.  So it turns out the 1920’s addition was completely supported by a single layer of brick that went two courses below grade.  These bricks have had their abuse from the elements over the past 90 years, so obviously the foundation needed some attention.  To achieve this, a 28’ trench about 2 feet wide and 30” deep (approx. 5 cubic yards of dirt for the non-math folk) was hand dug.  The first layer of the new foundation is 4” of crush and run and a 6” reinforced concrete slab for the new footer.  Hopefully my structural friends at KHA will approve.  Slowly but surely, the past week and a half we have jacked up the house using hydraulic jacks and blocks of wood and metal jack posts.  The house has come up close to 4 inches from its original state.  Laura was quite nervous when we first started jacking… something about hearing a lot of cracking and popping.  At one point one of the storm windows popped out and fell on me.  For lifting the house 4 inches, the visible damage has been minimal.  A little drywall cracking upstairs, shingles popping on the roof, the vinyl siding buckling, tiles in the bathroom shifting, etc.  But now doors that so desperately wanting to close all these years are now content sitting squarely in their door frames and the gaps in the windows can now be addressed with a little weather stripping (instead of cloth rags stuffing the gaps between the window and the frame).

The only snag we’ve hit so far in jacking the house up is a busted water line under the bathroom floor. But if that’s the worst that happens, I’d say we’re in pretty good shape.

New sill in place.

The orange string is where we want the bottom of the sill to be. We have a long way to go!

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Vision

A brief construction update:

We are almost ready to jack up the house! We’ve replaced two of the interior foundation beams.

What's highlighted in green is what we have replaced.

A few photos documenting the progress:

One of the beams we replaced. This used to be a solid 2x8 piece of oak. The termites munched it away to nothing.

On a side note here: The last 2×8 for this beam we had to nail in by hand. We ran out of nails for the nail gun and Ace hardware didn’t have the right size in stock. Through this I gained a huge amount of respect and appreciation for the people who built this house 100 years ago. The wood they used was hard, solid oak and they nailed everything by hand. As we were nailing the last 2×8 on, Allen started on one end and I started on the other. I struggled through 6 nails, with them bending and turning every which way as I hammered. Then I turned around and Allen had already spanned 7 feet and the board was done. I’ll take the pneumatic nail gun, please.

The new beams are four 2x8s nailed and bolted together. Allen got to buy a 10" drill bit for the job. I think it made him feel manly.

Allen working in tight quarters under the wall. As someone who is mildly claustrophobic, this would have been a nightmare for me.

Quikrete for the footers

My parents came up for a few days to help. Daddy mixed concrete and Mom took care of the kids. Not sure which job was easier!

Footers set for the jacks

Next task is to set the jacks and jackposts in place so we can lift the house!

So…as you wait in baited anticipation to find out if our house makes it up in one piece, I’ll segue to another subject which I hope will soon become a major focus in our lives and perhaps even become our livelihood itself:

The farm. This is why we chose to move here. This is why we’ve come. This place is that’s been calling to me for years.

The farm is 140 acres of land that has been in my family for at least 100 years. My grandfather raised cattle and chickens here and had a large vegetable garden. My sister and I used to go to the chicken house and gather eggs when we were kids. My dad even remembers milking the cows when he was a kid. Now, no one from the family lives on the property. The farmhouse and the 1-acre lot around it was sold out of the family. The fields have been leased out for horses and corn/soybean production. But now we’re here, and we have a vision for the land…

Walking onto this 40-acre field for the first time after we moved here was surreal. I almost skipped my way across it. Except that it had recently been plowed and it’s kind of hard to skip over freshly plowed dirt. Oh, and the dirt! I grew up in Georgia where the ground is hard, red clay. But this…this is soft and brown and rich.  It smells good, too. I got down on my hands and knees and ran it through my fingers and breathed in its earthy aroma. I’m sure that sounds a little weird to some people, but I couldn’t help it. I did stop short of tasting it though. Especially since manure had just recently been spread on the field! But there are few things that incite me to worship more than witnessing new life in creation. Every year at our spring planting in North Carolina garden, I would check daily for the first signs of life. And when that first sprout would appear, breaking through the surface of the soil, I would rejoice. I would call the girls over to show them and we would just marvel at God’s creative design. There is something about watching a tiny seed grow into an 8-foot tomato plant that causes me to worship the One who designed it.

But as I walked onto the field I had my back to the mountain. A little ways in, I turned around and looked up and was just amazed. Of all the times I have been to this farm growing up, I don’t think I have ever walked onto that field and turned around to look up. I just stood there for a minute and looked at this mountain in front of me and was amazed and completely humbled. Humbled that I might be known and loved by the Creator of the heavens and the earth and the Creator of this place. Humbled that I have the privilege of being able to step onto this land and feel a connection to it that goes back for a hundred years in my family. And humbled that I have been given the opportunity to do something with it. I was also overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with the possibilities and with the potential for what God could do with this place.

The vision for the land? To feed people from it. Picture blueberries and blackberries and grapevines at one end. A small orchard of fruit trees off to the right. Greenhouses and vegetable fields at the far end. And I want it to be done in a way that glorifies God and points to Him. I want to steward His creation well by preserving the integrity of the land and I want it to be a place where people come and look up at the mountain and are just amazed. And just as importantly, I want it to be a place where service to and love of neighbor are demonstrated. Scripture tells us the two most important commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31). My hope and prayer is that this would be a place where both of these commandments are observed and applied. I don’t want to feed only the affluent who like to buy organic. We want to feed those who really need to be fed. We want to feed the poor, because this demonstrates the heart of God. God’s heart breaks for those who are broken. Even back in Leviticus, God instructed the Israelites not to harvest the edges of the fields so that the poor might come and harvest them (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22). His heart for the poor and the broken is evident all throughout scripture.

 “He saves the needy from the sword in their mouth;
he saves them from the clutches of the powerful.
So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts its mouth.”
Job 5:15-17

“Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.”  Psalm 12:5

And we want it to be a place of rehabilitation and restoration not only for empty stomachs but for broken lives. Poverty, meth, and a slew of other issues run rampant in our community and destroy lives and families. We want this place to become a demonstration of God’s grace and of his healing power. A place where God can take what is broken and make it whole again. Where people can be set free from the entanglements of sin.

How do we do it? I have no idea. But God knows. We’re just taking it one step at a time. We have a vision, and we’re praying our way through it, one day at a time, as we see God bring it to fruition. I have a friend who taught me to dream big, because God is big. This is my dream. To love and worship Him and utilize his creation to love and serve his people.

Lord, show us how. Give us the wisdom and grace to get from here to there.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:5-8, 16-17

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