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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: How-To & Plans

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

Horseshoeing Part 4B

Horseshoeing Part 4B

Forging is that defect of the horse’s gait by reason of which, at a trot, he strikes the ends of the branches or the under surface of the front shoe with the toe of the hind shoe or hoof of the same side. Forging is unpleasant to hear and dangerous to the horse. It is liable to wound the heels of the forefeet, damages the toes or the coronet of the hind hoofs, and often pulls off the front shoes.

The Woodfired Bottom-heated Greenhouse Bench

Cultivating Questions: The Woodfired Bottom-heated Greenhouse Bench

It took several incarnations to come up with a satisfactory design for the bottom heated greenhouse bench. In the final version we used two 55 gallon drums welded end-to-end for the firebox and a salvaged piece of 12” stainless steel chimney for the horizontal flue. We learned the hard way that a large firebox and flue are necessary to dissipate the intense heat into the surrounding air chamber and to minimize heat stress on these components.

The Use and Construction of Home Made Implements

The Use and Construction of Home Made Implements

by: ,
from issue:

It is now possible to purchase a make of machine to suit almost any condition if the money is available. There is no doubt that eventually they will be quite generally used. However, the dry farmers are at present hard pressed financially and in many instances the purchase of very much machinery is out of the question. For the man of small means or limited acreage, a homemade implement may be utilized at least temporarily.

Horseshoeing Part 2B

Horseshoeing Part 2B

If we observe horses moving unrestrained over level ground, we will notice differences in the carriage of the feet. Many deviations in the line of flight of hoofs and in the manner in which they are set to the ground occur; for example, horses heavily burdened or pulling heavy loads, and, therefore, not having free use of their limbs, project their limbs irregularly and meet the ground first with the toe; however, careful observation will detect the presence of one or the other of these lines of flight of the foot.

McCormick Deering/International No 7 vs no 9

McCormick Deering/International: No. 7 versus No. 9

McCormick Deering/International’s first enclosed gear model was the No. 7, an extremely successful and highly popular mower of excellent design.

Horseshoeing Part 3A

Horseshoeing Part 3A

An examination should be made while the animal is at rest, and afterwards while in motion. The object of the examination is to gain accurate knowledge of the direction and movements of the limbs, of the form and character of the feet and hoofs, of the manner in which the foot reaches and leaves the ground, of the form, length, position, and wear of the shoe, and distribution of the nail-holes, in order that at the next and subsequent shoeings all ascertained peculiarities of hoof-form may be kept in mind and all discovered faults of shoeing corrected.

English Sheaf Knots

English Sheaf Knots

Long ago when grain was handled mostly by hand, the crop was cut slightly green so seed did not shatter or shake loose too easily. That crop was then gathered into ‘bundles’ or ‘sheafs’ and tied sometimes using a handful of the same grain for the cording. These sheafs were then gathered together, heads up, and leaned upon one another to form drying shocks inviting warm breezes to pass through. In old England, the field workers took great pride in their work and distinctive sheaf knots were designed and employed.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Camembert

by:
from issue:

Camembert is wonderful to make, even easy to make once the meaning of the steps is known and the rhythm established. Your exceptionally well fed, housed and loved home cow will make just the best and cleanest milk for this method. A perfect camembert is a marvelous marriage of flavor and texture. The ripening process is only a matter of a few weeks and when they’re ripe they’re ripe and do not keep long.

Farm Drum #30 Blacksmithing we Pete Cecil Basic Techniques

Farm Drum #30: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Basic Techniques

Pete Cecil demonstrates basic blacksmithing techniques through crafting a hook in the forge.

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

How to Store Vegetables

Potatoes may be safely stored in bits on a well drained spot. Spread a layer of straw for the floor. Pile the potatoes in a long, rather than a round pile. Cover the pile with straw or hay a foot deep.

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

by:
from issue:

Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.

Blacksmithing Secrets

Blacksmithing Secrets Part 1

by:
from issue:

Whether a farmer can afford a forge and anvil will depend upon the distance to a blacksmith shop, the amount of forging and other smithing work he needs to have done, and his ability as a mechanic. Although not every farmer can profitably own blacksmithing equipment, many farmers can. If a farmer cannot, he should remember that a great variety of repairs can be made with the use of only a few simple cold-metal working tools.

How To Prune a Formal Hedge

How To Prune A Formal Hedge

This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.

Log Arch

Log Arch

by:
from issue:

The arch was built on a small trailer axle that I cut down to 3 feet wide and tacked back together. This was done so that I could keep the wheels parallel. I cut the middle out after construction was complete. I used heavy wall pipe from my scrounge pile for the various frame parts. It is topped off with an angle iron bar for added strength and to provide a mount for the winch and some slots for extra chains.

Blacksmithing

Blacksmithing

from issue:

Modern farm machinery is largely of iron and steel construction, making an equipment of metal working tools necessary if satisfactory repairs are to be made. Forging operations consist of bending, upsetting, drawing out, welding, punching, drilling, riveting, thread-cutting, hardening, tempering, and annealing. Heat makes iron soft and ductile. Practically all forging operations on iron can be done more rapidly when it is at a high heat. Steel will not stand as high a temperature.

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

by:
from issue:

After you’ve built a small farm blacksmith shop, one of the first decisions that you’ll need to make is which type of fuel you’ll be using. Most people choose either gas (propane) or coal, however, wood fired forges are also an option. All three fuel types have pros and cons. The final decision will likely be based on the type of forging that you plan to do and the local availability of the fuel.

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