The Living Without Series

This is a series of posts that I wrote back in 2006 on living with less stuff. Check them out: liv011Living #2liv031liv04

Coal Creek Farm on Facebook

The Chicken Doctor


The Architect


The American Homeplace

I originally wrote this post in 2008. I got a spam comment on it today and couldn’t remember what I had written, so I re-read it and thought how timely it was. This week I’m taking our pork, veggies and other items made here on the farm to a farmer’s market. I’m a bit nervous taking this step, but if I fail I will continue to feed my family from this land that I love.

I’m finishing up Donald McCaigs book The American Homeplace. McCaig and his wife moved from New York City to the hills of Virginia in the early 70’s. He knew nothing about sheep or living in the country, but was tired of the city and his corporate job. So they took their savings and drove around until they found a spot with good water and pasture.

It’s been an interesting read. It’s could easily be three different books. The first part of the book explains the history of his farm and surrounding area in Virginia. He talks about the homesteaders and their families and what happened to them.
The middle of the book is short essays about his time on the farm. I learned about his flock of sheep, especially his sheep dogs. I appreciate the thoughtful and tender way he speaks of the animals he’s responsible for. His wife, Anne, and he sacrificed many a winter’s night sleep to work during the lambing season. He talks about his community and how they rely heavily on each other to survive. And sadly, he writes about the decline in population, the youth of the area moving away to find work.
He’s a model citizen. Volunteering for the fire department and working as an election official. He helped an elderly neighbor put up hay to relieve the worry of the old man’s wife.
The last part of the book are interviews of fellow homesteaders and alternative farmers. I’d never heard of the political radical Scott Nearing or his wife, Helen and their influential book, Living the Good Life. Their hand built stone house is still being used at the Good Life Center at Forest Farm. Ah, if I were young, had children named Rainbow Trout, Black Earth and Butternut Squash, I would send in my application to be a resident steward.
McCaig also interviewed Wendell Berry and Maury Telleen, here is Telleens slate of ten considerations on modern agrarianism. One of my favorite interviews conducted by McCaig was with fellow Kansan, Wes Jackson of Salina, Kansas founder of The Land Institute. This is a conversation McCaig has recorded in his book:
On the way back to my motel, Jackson pointed at a brand new shopping center under construction, just slightly nearer to the highway than the old one, which would be torn down. Tax advantages, easier shopping, more fertile land gone.
I said, “Wendell Berry once wrote that soil is an ultimate value. Can you think of any other ultimate values?”
He was silent for a moment. “Well, there’s water…..”
“Oh, sure, Wes, and air, and-”
“The Kingdom of God,” Wes Jackson said.
The Kingdom of God is an ultimate value. This book made me think, a lot about big agriculture and when it started to go wrong, when farmers began to feel the pressure to, “Feed The World” instead of their family. And I’ve thought about how hard it would be to live off the grid. I have a deep inner need to live more sustainably on this land, harness it’s power and produce, bring forth the goodness only sweetened earth can provide. How successful will I be? I think ultimately, I will only be as successful as the work I put forth. God willing, my family will become more thankful of this earth, it’s beauty, the miracle of life cycles. My children, my legacy, will look at their food and know where it came from and how much work was put into providing it and how deliciously deformed a tomato should be.

Spring on Coal Creek Farm


Salt the Barn Cat had kitties.  She had two white and two black, like little piano keys.  I keep asking them to sing, “Ebony and Ivory”, but they don’t get it.  So, I sing it to them.


Salt helped me plant the day before she gave birth.  She was incredibly helpful and not at all needy.



I’ve planted beets, onion sets, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radish and broccoli.  Oh, how I hope they grow quickly.  I’m a month behind because of the late April snow falls.  I’m taking produce to a farmer’s market this year and I’m a little nervous that I’m going to fail.  The first market is next week.  So far, I have two crops and pork to take.  It’s a small offering, but that’s all I have.  I am learning a lot this year, hopefully I can stumble through and do much better next year.


I can’t write a post without talking about my hair.  I went in for a trim and came out looking like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.  I was a bit shocked and compensated for it by applying and reapplying eye make-up.  Baseball caps are my favorite accessory right now.

It’s spring on Coal Creek Farm.  We have so much to do and so little time to do it.

What are you growing this year?

Oh, hey!

It’s not that I don’t want to blog, it’s that I start a post and then get distracted.  Kind of like every other project I’ve ever started and not finished.  I am a great starter!  I am a terrible finisher.  I’ve said it before and it’s not going to change, thank God I have a husband that I can sweet talk into completing my projects for me…..most of the time.

For those of you that have been so sweet to email me and say, “Hey April, are you still alive?”  I love that.  It makes me feel like you care if I drop off the face of the earth, which I sort of have this year.  Seriously, I am lying low and trying to keep myself focused on the three F’s: Faith, Family, Farm.

Tri-F, Trifecta F, Triple F, F Trivium, The F Trilogy, Triune F

I could keep going.  But, I’ll stop because I think I might start annoying myself.


Over spring break we took a trip to Louisiana to visit Clay’s dad.  It was such a fun trip.  The much dreaded 13 hour car trip ended up being a good time for all of us to see just how long we can be together in a tight space.  The answer is 4 days.

The picture is of us in front of one of the many giant Live Oak trees in Louisiana.  This one was in a cemetery just across the street from my father-in-law’s house.  Trees don’t grow that big in Kansas.


Clay’s dad is an Episcopal Priest.  This is his church.  It was constructed the last 1850’s and it’s as adorable as it seems.  I think we doubled his congregation when we attended services on Sunday.IMG_0714

Oh yes we did.  We ate heaping piles of crawfish caught fresh that day.  My goodness it was fun.  I just finished reading an article about how good cicadas are to eat and that they are in the same family as crawfish.  Now all I can think of is bugs, I at a lot of bugs.  I don’t want to talk about crawfish anymore.

And now my boys are driving me crazy so I need to get off of here.  I’ll try to post more photos of our trip later….this year.  Ha!