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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

In Memoriam Gene Logsdon

In Memoriam Gene Logsdon

In Memoriam: Gene Logsdon

by Beth Greenwood of Whitmore, CA

Gene Logsdon, The Contrary Farmer, died of cancer May 31st, 2016, at his home in Ohio. I first read Gene’s work as a horse-crazy, cowgirl teenager nearly half a century ago, when he was writing for Farm Journal. As I grew older, I searched out his books and learned many things about farming and farmers, gardening and gardeners, life and death, the spiritual and the profane.

None of that was surprising. Born in 1932, Gene was a lifelong farmer and his entire family was made up of farmers; he spent his life either farming or writing about it. Although he felt there was merit in horse farming, he himself preferred the tractor, after a runaway with a team nearly got him killed in his youth. He tried the “get big or get out” farming method, and came to the conclusion that in smaller farms lay redemption, healing for the land and the farmer, not to mention the sheer joy of daily life. Even during his years in the seminary, what he really loved was working the seminary farm and roaming its 400 acres of woodlands. The priesthood wasn’t for him, though, and he fell in love with and married Carol, raised two kids and bought his own 30 acres where he experimented with all sorts of things at which conventional farmers turned up their noses. He made it very clear that Carol was his partner in everything, whether it was weeding the garden, midwifing the ewes or wandering the fields looking for arrowheads.

He came by the contrary part of his cognomen honestly. Gene didn’t see life (or much of anything else) through conventional eyes. I remember his comment about a course he took in psychology when he was trying to argue that animals did in fact have personalities (as any farmer or rancher will tell you is absolutely true), and the teacher basically told him to sit down and shut up because he didn’t know what he was taking about. Gene said: “I was so angry I left the course and then left the whole stupid school.” Despite that, he was highly educated and earned the credits for his doctorate, although he never did have a PhD. I’m sure there’s a good story there, but I don’t know what it was. He was able to take a good hard look at pretty much anything, from rural art to land grant colleges, from farm subsidies to the Amish way of life, and put his own twist on it. Beginning with his very first book, Two Acre Eden, he speculated on possibilities, shared his failures with as much humor as he shared his successes, and made it clear that he was more than willing to challenge the establishment by proving that, yes, it could be done a different way.

No subject was safe from Gene’s pen, whether it was the beauty of a wildflower, the fascination of the insect world, the strong connection between agriculture and art, the idiocy of bureaucrats, the stupidity of farm subsidies or the joys of manure. In The Mother of All Arts, he set forth the thesis that agriculture is itself art. Consider the different shades of green in a pasture, the symmetry of a plowed field or the strong golden light of early evening, said Gene, and it’s no wonder that the land has spawned such artists as Andrew Wyeth painting the Kuerner farm or Wendell Berry — farmer, novelist and poet. In The Lords of Folly, he fictionalizes (one hopes it was fiction, but sometimes I wonder…) his experiences in the seminary. Grass farming and intensive grazing was covered in All Flesh is Grass. He told us how to grow a pancake patch in Small-Scale Grain Raising, how to create and manage a farm pond in The Pond Lovers, the importance of trees and woodlot management in A Sanctuary of Trees. He even tackled “unmentionable” subjects. One of his recent books was titled Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind; while the title might be a little off-putting, the fact of the matter is that the natural world runs on and needs manure, and we should in fact treat it with the reverence it deserves. Pope Mary and the Church of Almighty Good Food is both comedy and satire, ruminating as it does on the nature of religion and belief, the connection between food and worship, a renegade priest and the redemption of humans, the seasons of life and the seasons of the garden.

In addition to reading most of his books, I followed Gene at The Contrary Farmer blog for years, discussing with him and like-minded folks a wide variety of topics related to whatever engaged his free-ranging mind. Last year, when he told us about his cancer diagnosis, a number of us wrote a tribute to him and Carol — although we hoped he would beat the big C, we wanted him to know how much he meant to us. I think it was the first time Gene was ever speechless. Face to face with his own mortality, he wrote Gene Everlasting: “I write this book believing that the human race, including myself, is irrational. But being irrational is not all bad… Nevertheless, totally contradicting everything I have written above (another mark of human insanity), I really do intend this book to be a comfort and a solace for those people facing death. And that means all of us…now I understood that it was only because nature changed every month, every day, every moment, that it could come again. Only through change is permanence achieved… To understand immortality, embrace mortality.”

His publisher, Dave Smith, plans to keep the Contrary Farmer blog online. If you’ve never read any of Gene’s material, you might want to stop by. If you read him in the past but lost touch, it’s well worth your time to go back and pick up the thread.

RIP, Gene. You will be sorely missed.

Expanded from text originally published in the blog Jefferson’s Daughters. For those interested in resourceful, inquisitive and individual lifestyles: www.jeffersonsdaughters.com

Link to tribute on the The Contrary Farmer blog: thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/dear-gene-and-carol-friends-and-family-honor-the-logsdons/

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Littlefield Notes Fall 2012

Littlefield Notes: Fall 2012

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Why horses? We are knee deep in threshing oats and rye when I find after lunch that the tractor won’t start. Press the ignition switch — nothing; not even a click. I cancel the day’s threshing and drive thirty miles to the tractor store and pick up a genuine-after-market IH part. Come home, put in the new ignition switch and still nothing. When we need the horses they start right up, without complaint — every time.

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 3

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 3

Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

No Starving Children!

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 4

Assuming that you’ve found a farm you want to buy, next you’ll need to determine if you can buy it. If you have sold your property, and/or saved your money, and have the means to buy the farm you are sitting pretty. If you do not have the full price of a considered farm, in cash or any other form, you will likely have to look for financing.

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading at FreeSong Farm by Greg Jeffers prosperoushomesteading.blogspot.com

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

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Before starting to plow a field much time can be saved if the field is first staked out in uniform width lands. Methods that leave dead furrows running down the slope should be avoided, as water may collect in them and cause serious erosion. The method of starting at the sides and plowing around and around to finish in the center of the field will, if practiced year after year, create low areas at the dead furrows.

Personal Food Production

Personal Food Production

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We can argue about when, but someday within several decades, oil and the plentiful super-market food we take for granted will be in short supply and/or very expensive. We must all start immediately to grow as much of our own food as possible. This is the fun part and is the subject of a vast popular movement highlighted by innumerable books, magazines, and web sites. Square-foot gardening, raised beds, and permaculture are the new rage. We don’t need thirty-million acres of lawns. Flowers aren’t very filling either.

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

The Forcing of Plants

The Forcing of Plants

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It is always advisable to place coldframes and hotbeds in a protected place, and particularly to protect them from cold north winds. Buildings afford excellent protection, but the sun is sometimes too hot on the south side of large and light-colored buildings. One of the best means of protection is to plant a hedge of evergreens. It is always desirable, also, to place all the coldframes and hotbeds close together, for the purpose of economizing time and labor.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Sustainable

Sustainable

Sustainable is a documentary film that weaves together expert analysis of America’s food system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. In a region dominated by commodity crops, Marty Travis has managed to maintain a farming model that is both economically viable and environmentally safe.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT