The Southern Agrarian

Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

More Than Just Food

There is a temptation to look at a vegetable garden as a home-grown food factory, where efficiency is the driving factor. I suspect that most of us have gone through that phase. We try to squeeze the most production out of every last bit of garden space – if it doesn’t put food on the table, then it’s given the same status as a weed.

We need to change that. We need to remember why we grow things, and why we feel a deep connection with the land and with our people. Southern Agrarianism is very much a cultural matter, and our culture has always placed a high value on beauty. We see it in the art, the architecture, and the music of our European heritage. It is an important part of who we are. To that end, we need to remember that there is an aesthetic, almost spiritual, aspect to raising our own food. I make it a point to try to make my garden areas as visually attractive as I can. I plant flowers (usually Zinnias) among the vegetables, both for cut flowers and to attract pollinators into the garden. The garden fence is covered with both bush roses and climbing roses (Old Blush, a vintage rose that requires virtually no care).

A garden is to enjoy – not just to provide our families with fresh eggs and healthy vegetables. It is there to show our children and grandchildren that food does not originate wrapped in cellophane and Styrofoam packaging. It is a very real part of home schooling – no matter where the formal lessons are held.

A garden doesn’t have to look like something from a magazine cover to be beautiful – no garden looks perfectly groomed at all times. Just remember that it is there to be enjoyed, and beauty makes it enjoyable.


This is a 90-second tour of our little one-acre homestead that I put together this past Friday.

A Personal Motto

Every Southern gentleman, indeed, every man, should have a personal motto – a touchstone that his thoughts and actions can be compared to. Have you set high standards for yourself – and for your family? Are you measuring up to those high standards? Having a personal motto is a way that we can hold ourselves accountable to our core beliefs. As a Christian, I am accountable first to God’s word in The Bible; after that, my motto.

For me, it is the distilled wisdom of my ancestors as I understand it. If they could speak, this is what they would say to me. This is my personal motto.

 

Not for Our Time, but for All Time.
Not for All People, but for Our People.

 

Not for Our Time, but for All Time – This reminds me to take the long term view. The world does not revolve around me. It reminds me that everything does not begin and end with me. It reminds me that I am but one link in a chain that extends back countless generations and will extend into the future with those who come after I am long dead and gone. It is illustrated by planting trees whose shade I will not live to enjoy and whose fruit I will never taste. It is about making sure that those who come after me can enjoy every possible benefit that I can pass along so that they can do the same when it is their turn.

In addition, it is a reminder to keep my eyes on the eternal rather than the temporal. It is the essence of Christianity.  It brings to mind Memento Mori – Latin for “Remember your mortality.” Memento Mori has been a popular theme in art and philosophy since about the 1600’s and is the reason that many paintings from that time include a human skull.

 

Not for All People, but for Our People – Family first. While I wish all the best for everyone, my family always comes first. Always.

Family is a genetic connection. My family is those with whom I have the closest genetic similarities. I see the family as a series of ever larger concentric circles with myself and my closest relatives inside the innermost circle, followed by cousins and aunts and uncles in the next circle, followed by ever more distant relatives. We share the same DNA. It is in our blood. At some point in that series of circles, it changes from Our People to Other People.

Does that mean there is a racial aspect to this? Of course – and without apology. Family is defined, at the most basic level, as sharing the same basic genetics, and those with whom I have the most in common genetically, are those of my own race. I expect other people to show the same preference for their people and for them to consider me as “Other People”. That is how it should be, and any man worthy of his family name would do the same.

Is every one of my race “Our People”? No, it is not as simple and clear-cut as that, since there is also a spiritual/cultural aspect to it. There are some who are genetically close to me, yet we have nothing else in common. The reverse is also true. It cannot be reduced to some sort of skin color test, yet race can determine whether someone is Our People or Other People.

A personal motto goes to the heart of being a Southern gentleman – honor, loyalty, holding ourselves accountable, knowing what is right and then doing it. What is your personal motto? If you don’t yet know what it is, then take the time to discover it. It took me many months to discover and refine mine. It is well worth the time and effort.

Life Time Chicken Coop – Part 2

This is part of a series of posts about building a chicken coop designed to last for a long time, be easy to maintain – and look good. See Part 1 here

Basic framework, with rafters hanging upside down to mark locations.

  • The entire structure was designed with the aim of making the best use of standard size materials, beginning with a 4′ x 8′ floor size.
  • Use the straightest 4×4 posts you can find – it will make the entire project go more smoothly.
  • A miter saw with a sharp blade is almost a must-have tool. If you don’t already have one or can borrow one, then this project will make it a worthwhile purchase.
  • This photo shows a single 2×4 across the center of the floor. This was later changed to several cross pieces in order to better support the floor, but especially to hang things like the feeder and the ramp that goes from the bottom hatch to the ground.

 


Detail of rafters and corners.

  • Simpson Strong-ties were used throughout the project.
  • There were no nails used – only stainless steel deck screws and treated Hardie Board screws.
  • Steel cable and turn-buckles were used to square it up and keep it square. Remember that it will need to be moved after completion, and the cables make the coop rigid enough to safely move.

 


The floor, with notches cut out to fit the corner posts.

  • The floor had to be cut in half (not shown here) in order to fit it into the completed framework.
  • After the coop was nearly complete and in position, a hatch was cut into the floor so that the chickens could get into the ground-level section. There is also a side door giving access to an outside pen, but that is not being used at this point.
  • The floor is covered with a flexible sheet of white plastic that is far easier to clean than the plywood floor would be. It came in a 4×8 sheet, so no trimming other than the corner notches was needed. (We’ll look at ease of maintenance features in a future post)

 


Roof before the steel outer layer was applied.

  • Note that the top ridge of the roof is open. This will have a ridge vent on top.
  • The underlayment is an important part of the roof – it seals the screw holes from the steel roof. In addition, silicone caulking was added around each of the screw holes.
  • Be sure that it completely covers the plywood and pieces overlap according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Also shown in this photo is the removable nest box. This turned out very well. The chickens had about five months before they started laying to get used to roosting where I wanted them to roost. In past chicken coops, they would try to roost in the nest boxes, and make a mess of things.

 

 

Making the Best of it

The Tolkien quote above is one of my favorites, and it is certainly applicable to the incredible instability in the world today. Life happens, and for the most part, we are just along for the ride.

What matters is what we do with the circumstances we find ourselves in. As for me, I choose to be a Southern gentleman – regardless of the situation. It is my choice, what I do with the current situation. That really came into focus as my wife and I walked through our local Publix grocery store yesterday. The employees were frantically trying to stock the shelves while answering questions about empty shelves, the cashiers were doing their best to explain rationing to customers, and the aisles were crowded. Unlike stories I’ve heard of fights over the last roll of toilet paper, people were calm and polite, but the tension was palpable. It is my choice, so I choose to go out of my way to smile, say “thank you” wherever appropriate, and tell a couple of the employees that I appreciate what they’re doing and what they are going through. It makes a difference, both to them and to me. Another benefit is that it gives us a feeling of control at a time when everything seems to be spinning out of control.

How will we use the additional time spent at home? I hope we think it over carefully and look at it as an opportunity rather than a restriction. As for me, I am lining up a selection of books that I’ve been wanting to read. Not staring at a computer screen, but real paper and ink books – all while enjoying a comfortable chair and a cup of Earl Grey tea. I have a garden that needs tending and planning for next year. The chickens will need food and water, and their eggs need gathering. The blossoms on the peach trees mean there will be pruning to be done, and peaches to harvest.

What is happening right now is something that we will remember for the rest of our lives, and we will recount these times to those too young to remember. Make sure that your memories are good ones and that your regrets are few.

The best example I can think of at the moment, is the memory of one of the recent hurricanes that swept through here, leaving us without power in a house filled with three generations of family. Our daughter-in-law brought her harp to our house, and played it by candlelight and battery lantern. You could almost feel the calm as the hurricane raged outside. Those are the types of memories I want to carry with me from these chaotic times.

Relax. This is going to take a while.

Our daughter-in-law played the harp for us, bring a sense of calm in the middle a hurricane.

Life Time Chicken Coop – Part 1

A chicken coop can be built from almost any kind of scrap lumber and they usually are. The cheap, light-weight coops are quite popular, and for good reason – but that’s not always the best solution. I have built a number of chicken coops over the years, and each was very different from the others.

I wanted to build a chicken coop that would be my last one. It would be designed and built for the long term. I wanted it to last the rest of my life and then be used for many years after that. This is the first of an occasional series of posts describing this project in the hope that others might get some ideas from it. These were my requirements:

  • Long lasting – it would be built using many of the same materials and techniques that a regular house would use.
  • Predator-proof
  • Easy to maintain
  • Aesthetically pleasing – it sits in the back yard and is part of the landscape
  • Semi-portable. Though it is stationary, I wanted to be able to relocate it if needed.
  • Well ventilated – in this area, protecting chickens from overheating is a major factor

In future posts, we’ll look at some of the features that make it work – as well as a thing or two that I wish I’d done differently. We’ll also look at things like the feeder that I built that results in near-zero food waste – far better than the commercial ones.

Front view

 

Nest box and water tank

 

Inside, looking toward the nest box

 

Underneath, showing watering station

 

Nest box. Divider panel is removable, as are the two nests made from rubber water bowls

 

The top of the nest box is completely removable, and has hooks to hang it in place.

 

End view showing removable nest box and 35 gallon water tank. Wire section below the nest box is removable for access. Feeder is at this end. Metal panel is to keep rain from being blown in and spoiling the feed. A hook provides a convenient place to hold the egg basket.

 

In the next post, we’ll look at some photos of it as it was being built.

The Library of Alexandria – Southern Agrarian Version

Some of the topics here are admittedly quite a stretch for Southern Agrarianism, and this is one example. Today’s post was prompted by an email discussion with a friend and fellow Southern Agrarian.

The Library of Alexandria, built in about 250 BC, was designed as a repository of all the important information of the day. It was the essential knowledge that Ptolemy, II of Egypt wanted to collect and preserve. It is an idea that has fascinated me for many years. What would we, today, consider to be the essential knowledge of our time? If we had to restart civilization with nothing but what was in a collection of books, what would it contain?

When I became aware of the fact that so much of our accumulated knowledge is in digital format only – and at the same time, realizing what an EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) could do to what is nothing more than zeros and ones stored on magnetic media, I began collecting books. Not digital books, but real, paper and ink books – in hard cover if available. The pace really quickened when grandchildren came along. They would be home schooled, as were our two sons, and I wanted them to have a good library available.

The criteria I used for my library is simple: What can we not afford to lose? To that end, here is a list, in no particular order, of some of the book topics and types.

  • Farming and large scale gardening
  • Basic industrial processes (textiles, fuel alcohol, machining)
  • References (math and engineering formulas, conversion tables, logarithmic tables)
  • Classic literature
  • Classic works of art and architecture
  • History, without the PC nonsense.
  • Maps and Atlas
  • Encyclopedias
  • Culture (Etiquette, traditional living, raising a family)
  • Medicine, including veterinary
  • Bible study (Concordances, reference works, KJV Bibles)
  • Engineering design, drafting, land surveying
  • Leadership (public speaking, dealing with people, Roberts Rules of Order)
  • Military science
  • Gunsmithing
  • Basic science (biology, botany, physics, meteorology)
  • Communications (Radio)
  • Food preservation and preparation, nutrition
  • Home school materials to make sure that future generations will know how to make use of the library

If I were to sum up the thought behind my library, it would be contained in the title of a book on my shelf – The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch by Lewis Dartnell. I just take the premise of that book and go farther and deeper.

My most recent addition, picked up this evening at a Goodwill Store, is the 1943 edition of Fractures and Dislocations; it includes photos and description of using a large C-clamp and blocks of felt to set a fracture of the foot. Hopelessly outdated by today’s standards, it would be invaluable to those in a time when modern medicine becomes a distant memory. It is technology appropriate for the times.

Words Have Meaning

gen-tle-man – noun a : a man of noble or gentle birth b : a man belonging to the landed gentry c(1) : a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) : a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior …

A while back, I watched yet another news clip of a police spokesman using the word “gentleman” to describe a street thug. In this case, a group of five Blacks walked into a restaurant, got angry because it was taking too long to cook their food. They shot and killed the cook and walked away. The cook had a wife and five children with the youngest being 2 years old. Our society has rotted to the point that this kind of brutal, savage disregard for life is no longer uncommon.

Another quote from the police: “It was a random dispute that went tragically wrong.” No, Mr. Detective, it was a brutal murder by uncivilized thugs who do not have even the most basic level of decency required to live among civilized human beings. There is more to claiming the title of “human being” than having opposable thumbs. Words have meaning, Mr. Detective, and if you can’t grasp that concept, you should not be a public spokesman.

One contributing factor to this is the fact that our society continues to treat uncivilized thugs as though they were civilized men. We have all heard police, judges, politicians, and news reporters use the word “gentleman” to refer to the worst dregs of society. Can anything be farther from the true meaning of the word? Do a web search on “gentleman” and you’ll find “gentleman’s club”. They are not where gentlemen congregate – they are dark, sleazy, degrading strip clubs. To add even further insult, their advertisements will refer to those who work there as “ladies” – yet another complete perversion of the meaning.

Language, along with art, music, architecture, etc., is a key component of culture. Language is made up of words, and words have meaning. When a society takes a word and reverses its meaning, that degrades the entire culture. “Gentleman” is not the only example. “Bad” has become slang for something good. “Gay” went from meaning “happily excited, merry, keenly alive and exuberant, having or inducing high spirits …” to meaning one who practices the most vile and perverted sexual deviancy. We have come to the place where George Orwell’s prediction about the way society thinks has become reality: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Perhaps we cannot stop the process of cultural Marxism as it destroys our society by changing the way people think. Perhaps it has already gone too far. We can, however, control it in our families, among our friends and associates, in our churches, and other places where we have a leadership role. Men think in words, and words have meaning. Insist that words be used correctly.

Some Facts About Monarchies

A post at the Mad Monarchist (one of my favorite blogs, but sadly, it is now closed) presents some interesting facts about the actual cost of monarchies compared to republics. Here are a few points from the post (written during the time of EX-President Obama):

In Great Britain, the Queen is known for being exceptionally frugal, using the same car until it practically falls apart. In fact, in a recent year, the travel expenses for the entire British Royal Family was considerably less than the travel expenses for President Obama and his small crew.
•••
(W)hen people think of Marie Antoinette, they think lavishness and frivolity, they do not think of a woman who gave large amounts to charity, who broke down social barriers at court and who invited poor children to eat with her own royal offspring at Versailles. When it comes to royal children for that matter, it may surprise some to know how much more luxuriously the children of a President of the United States live compared to royal or even imperial offspring.
•••
The Romanov Archduchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, for example, had to sleep on camp beds and take cold baths. Their educational schedule was positively Spartan with dawn till dark studies and exercises. The White House may not be the Winter Palace but you can be sure the Obama daughters are taking hot baths at night. Similarly, when one thinks of an Emperor one doesn’t usually think of someone like Emperor Francis Joseph who slept on an army cot and wore clothes until they were worn out -and then patched them and wore them some more!
•••
In Russia, Emperor Alexander III preferred the simple meals of his servants to the delicacies of the banquets thrown by the upper class and his idea of recreation was a simple walk in the Russian wilderness with some sausage and a piece of bread for his lunch. These imperial leaders were hardly men of lavish, wasteful luxury and indulgence.

So… what is the point of this, you may ask? What does monarchy have to do with Southern Agrarianism? Aside from the fact that monarchies are a time-proven form of government that is grossly misunderstood by those who depend on American public schools for their education, it would behoove us give some serious thought as to what will replace the republican form of government here in America once it fully self-destructs. If you don’t see that coming, then you’re not paying attention. Am I advocating that America become a monarchy? The fact that I cannot see a realistic path from “here” to “there” precludes that. Still, it is a form of government that has stood the test of time for far longer than any form of self-government has. It’s a sad commentary on our ability to govern ourselves.


Have you ever wondered how monarchy might once again bring stability and order to our chaotic world? Getting From Here to There is an article I wrote in November 2017 that presents one possible route.

Weeds, Immigration, and Culture

We can learn a lot about life from lessons learned in the garden.

Several years ago, in an effort to improve the quality of the soil in my garden, I bought a truckload of topsoil. It was carefully spread, then tilled and worked into the soil. The original soil and the new topsoil were mixed until they became as one. At first, it was great. The soil was darker and richer looking than the native sandy soil, and the plants that I grew there were bigger and stronger. Then came the weeds.

Hidden in among that rich-looking soil that I brought in to mix with the native soil were weed seeds. Specifically, nutsedge nodules. Here we are, years later, and I am still battling the nutsedge. It spreads its roots deep below the surface, and it stores nutrition in a large nodule deep down in the soil. Just cutting them off at the surface has no lasting effect – the weed springs right back in just a couple of days. Nutsedge must be dug out by the roots, one weed at a time. The nodule must be removed. The root runners must be removed. Everything about the weed must be removed, or it will continue to spread, sap the strength of the plants that are intended to grow there, and eventually they will take over completely.

Removing the weeds and their roots is not a painless process. It disturbs the roots of the garden plants, and it is slow and tedious work. There is no alternative if the garden is to be saved. It must be done.

Culture is a very precious thing, and it must be cared for and defended. A culture – just like agriculture – requires work to maintain. There are no shortcuts. Bringing in, or allowing in, foreign elements into a native culture brings with it serious risks. While on the surface, there may appear to be benefits to mixing cultures, the hidden costs will quickly show up. Like an invasive species in nature that finds no natural enemies, it takes over and the original culture disappears. Forever.

(Originally published on March 25, 2017)

Transplanting Seedlings

Red cabbage and Romaine Lettuce seedlings ready for transplanting


While direct seeding is probably the most common way of starting a garden, there are some major advantages to starting your seedlings in a tray and then transplanting them once they have gotten to the right stage.

  • Very little seed is wasted.
  • Thinning can be done while comfortably sitting at a bench or table.
  • By starting Spring crops before the last killing frost, harvest comes several weeks earlier.
  • Beat the bugs. Insect pests arrive when plenty of food is normally available to them. By planting earlier than normal, you can harvest while pest pressure is still low.
  • Aesthetics – There is just something very rewarding about looking out over your garden and seeing full, straight, evenly spaced rows. It is generally easier with transplants than with direct seeding.

Let’s look at the process, step by step:

Seed tray, seeds, and soil. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.


Fill the seed tray with seed starting soil. Unless you’ve got a very large garden, you may find that just getting pre-mixed seed starting soil is best. Make sure that the soil is moist before adding seeds! Press it in firmly, then smooth it off. Use something to make the hole to receive the seeds at the proper depth. I find that the end of a “Sharpie” marker works well for most seeds.


Seeds will sprout, then grow under lights until ready to transplant. Keep the plants close to the light source. I use a timer to give them about 16 hours of light per day. Experiment to see what works best for you. Check them regularly and don’t let them dry out.


When it’s time to transplant, allow the seedlings to get fairly dry so that they are easier to work with. Use a dowel about the size of the drain holes to push the seedlings out and lay them in a tray for easier handling. The flat end of a cheap ballpoint pen works pretty well. This is where you’ll be glad you packed the soil in the cells nice and firmly.


The seed trays have grooves in the sides to help guide the roots straight downward rather than allowing them to wrap around into a ball.


I use a knife to open up a hole for the transplant, and a “garden scooter” that I found at a yard sale to make it easier.


Nice straight, even rows of plants is a beautiful sight. Be sure to water it well immediately after planting and for the next several days until the roots get better established.


A few more notes:

  • My standard spacing for most crops is 12″ between plants, and 24″ between rows. Larger plants, such as tomatoes and eggplant, are spaced wider.
  • The seed trays I use are available from Hoss Tools, which is where I get most of my garden tools. These are the 162 cell trays with the Heavy Duty Bottom Trays. They are not cheap, but they are incredibly rugged, and will probably last long enough to be passed down to your grandchildren if given reasonable care. The Bottom Trays may seem like just an added expense, but they are very helpful and well worth it. If you’re just getting started, you might want to start off with another cheaper type of tray; eventually, though, I have no doubt that you’ll end up getting some of these Hoss Tool trays.
  • Once the seeds have sprouted and sent down their roots, you can water from the bottom up. This is where the Heavy Duty Bottom Trays come in handy. Make sure that you water from the top until all the seeds have sprouted and put down roots before you start bottom watering.
  • Be sure to read up on what you will be planting. Not all plants will tolerate transplanting very well, so they work better if direct seeded.  Some examples of plants that generally do NOT do well with transplanting are beans, corn, and okra. I have done reasonably well transplanting even those plants that are not recommended for it, but as a general rule, follow the planting guidelines unless you just want to experiment (which I highly recommend!).
  • I try to always plant a few “spares” between the rows, or somewhere else in the garden. These are used to replace the ones that don’t survive the transplanting – I like neat, full rows.
  • I mentioned earlier to make sure that the soil is damp before adding it to the trays. If it is too dry, surface tension will not allow the water to penetrate the dry soil, and your seedlings will shrivel and die for lack of water – even though you are “watering” them regularly (see photo below). You want the soil to be just damp enough that you can squeeze it into a ball and have it stay in that shape. You might be able to squeeze a drop or two of water out of it, but you don’t want it much wetter than that.

This is what happens when the soil going into the trays is too dry. Surface tension prevents the water from going into the soil and reaching the roots.


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