I quit day to day farming at the end of harvest last year and handed my part over to my nephew Tom. The farm magazines keep coming though. I don’t generally read them, but John Phipps who writes for the Farm Journal magazines is one of my favorite commentators. So today when a Top Producer magazine (a Farm Journal publication) showed up in our mailbox I flipped it open to the back page where John’s column runs.
And this was John’s column
(It’ll be available in text format in a few weeks, click the image above to read the scanned in magazine page in the meantime.)
I love you, Tom, but I’m glad I’m out.
1. I in general despise Top Producer. It’s all about glamorizing big farmers. I usually read it just to get outraged.
On December 1st, 2016 I tipped the scales at 234 pounds, the most I’d ever weighed in my life, a good 50 pounds overweight. I felt every pound of it. My feet hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurt. I couldn’t keep my pants up because my gut was bigger than my hips and I had constant heartburn. I was getting through the day with Aleve and Tums. Something had to change.
My nephew Tom was ready to take over the farm, and I was happy to turn the day to day work and worry over to him. I had been working part-time for Complete Wellness Solutions doing computer programming, and on December 1st I started full-time with them.
With the change – back to a regular Monday through Friday job, I started exercising daily and eating lighter. Running was excruciating, I’d run 100 feet, and walk 300. Foot pain, shin pain, knee pain, hip pain… I ran a marathon 20 years ago at a faster pace than I could maintain for 100 feet now. I was embarrassed to be me.
The weight started to come off, fast. The running improved, but not as fast. I was still lumbering along, trying (and failing) to run more than a half mile at a time. But I was improving, and in a paroxysm of optimism I signed up to run the Turtle Days 5K.
If you’re not from around here, Turtle Days is our annual summer fair commemorating a farmer who thought he saw a turtle “as big as the roof of a car” in a local lake back in the 1940’s. My Dad was a teenager then and remembered driving out to the lake to watch the attempts to find the turtle (spoiler alert: they don’t find it).
I hadn’t run a race since 2006. When I started farming after we lost my brother Dave running fell by the wayside. I still liked to run, but there was no time for it in the planting and harvest seasons. It got harder and harder each year as I got older to pick it up after the 2 month layoff for planting or harvesting.
And so on June 17th I toed the line in front of Churubusco High School for my first race in over 10 years. The course went around through town and finished with a lap around the track at the high school.
I last ran around that track in 1974. Back then I could run 800 meters  in 2 minutes and change. It was strange to trundle around it, 40 plus years gone by at a 5 minute per 800 meter pace.
But I finished, still standing in 30:02, exactly 10 minutes over my personal best for a 5K. And I couldn’t be more proud of that time.
I promised myself a prize after I reached my first set of goals, which were to run a 5K and to get under 200 pounds  . When I finished the Turtle Days 5K I’d reached both of those, so after the race I went into Summit City Bicycles and picked out my prize, a Specialized Roubaix.
I love to bike, and I’d been riding a 20 year old Cannondale I’d bought over 10 years ago secondhand from a buddy of mine. A Roubaix is way more bike than I need, but I love to get out and ride, and I love the precision and quality of the bike.
I’ll turn 60 years old in just a few days now, and I figure on July 22nd I’ll be cranking out some miles on the Roubaix, still standing.
1.Back then we ran yards, not meters. But despite whatever you may have heard, a yard and a meter are the same thing.
Owen and Spenser (the Wonder Dogs) and I went picking wild black raspberries today.
We went to the hay field first that has raspberries growing around it, but the Japanese beetles had decimated those vines. I gathered up the Wonder Dogs (Spenser couldn’t believe we were leaving so soon, he practically defined “hang dog” coming back to the truck). But little did Spenser know we were heading for the woods at the home farm.
I parked on the north side of the woods and we worked our way around the north side and then down the east side. There’s a swamp on the east side and around it the raspberries were plentiful.
I was picking and Spenser was getting his hound on, running through the woods and howling as he tracked various woodland creatures. Owen was following me, but when we got to the swamp he turned aside and I heard him getting a drink in the swamp.
I kept picking and Spenser kept running and howling and I didn’t hear anything from Owen. That wasn’t unusual. He tends to loll in the shade as much as possible.
A half hour or so later it was getting on towards lunchtime and I had enough berries. Spenser was coming around in one of his howling passes near me so I captured his attention and said, “Let’s get Owen and head home.” And then I looked around and Owen was nowhere to be seen.
Now Owen is a little dog (or at least short) and the grass is tall, so I didn’t think much of it. “Ohh-En” I called… Nothing…
“Well, bleep,” I said. I started slogging around the swamp. Owen’s stubby and I imagined him bogged down somewhere. I fought all the way around the swamp through muck and brambles and fallen trees. No Owen.
“Maybe he went back to the truck,” I thought. So I stumbled across the northeast corner of the woods to the truck, still calling “Ohhh-En” thinking that if he had cut through the woods heading for the truck I might find him in the woods. I get through the woods to my truck and… no Owen. I went back around the outside of the woods to the swamp, thinking he might be hunkered down in the shade along the edge of the woods. Still no Owen.
“Spenser,” I said, “go find Owen.” He dutifully ran off into the woods howling while I made another lap around the swamp.
I was about to call Debbie and ask her to come over help me comb the woods for the Prodigal Corgi when I thought, “surely he wouldn’t have gone back up to the barn?” It’s a hard half mile from the woods to the barn, through brush and trees and up and down hills. But before I called Debbie and admitted I’d lost Owen I figured I’d check.
I thrashed across the woods yet again, got in my truck and drove up to the barn. And there was Owen.
He looked at me with an expression like, “what are you doing here?” I boosted him up into the truck and we went back to the woods to get Spenser. Spenser had realized he’d been left and was heading up the lane pell-mell. He’d run so much I thought I was going have to boost him into the truck too, but after only a couple tries he got in himself.
And now we’re all enjoying the fruits of our labors.
The Wonder Dogs are sacked out.
And Debbie and I are enjoying delicious wild raspberry pie.
(Through enormous self restraint I got a picture of the pie before devouring the last slice.)
I’m the furthest thing in the world from a Trump apologist. He is a puerile, filthy, degenerate, incestuous pig, a national embarrassment and disgrace.
But I’m old enough to remember May 4th, 1970 when the National Guard (under another Republican embarrassment of a president) used automatic weapons  on protesting college students at Kent State, killing 4 of them.
Trump’s minor league compared to that.
1. I went on a live fire exercise once with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg. This would’ve been 15 years ago at least. I’ve never heard anything as horrifying as a machine gun. It’s not “rat-a-tat-tat”, it’s a ripping noise as the hail of bullets tear the air apart. It gives me the creeps to this day. And to use that on rock throwing college students? Inexcusable.
Since I’m on a biblical tear here at zumbrun.net I’ll offer up another one.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
– Matthew 25:31-46
Our so-called representatives  just passed a bill to take health insurance from the least in our country. Not for any good reason, just to score a few political points to pander to their base.
On this Maundy Thursday, while that jackass occupying the White House and his sycophants spread violence and hate and it seems they are leading us down the road to a global holocaust, I found myself thinking of this verse:
And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.
— Isaiah 2:4
Thousands and thousands will die because we put weapons of mass destruction in the hands of this incompetent fool. As for me, I’ve laid down my sword and shield and I won’t study war. I won’t fight, and I won’t support or admire those who do.
I was splitting wood the other day with my second favorite ax. That ax belonged to my wife’s grandfather, Glen Buckmaster. I like to split wood and remember him. I only knew him for a few years, but he was a fine man.
The ax was bouncing back at me, so I figured it needed sharpened. I hit it with the grinder to reshape the bevel and then honed it with a file. The wood exploded apart when I hit it with the sharpened ax. I clearly need to sharpen my tools more often.
And this is a good excuse to quote one of my favorite poems.
“Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.”
Robert Frost in the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time”.
Any month with an ‘r’ in it, that’s horseradish season. April’s a good time to do it, because the ground’s not frozen.
Spenser and Owen (the Wonder Dogs) and I went out and dug 4 nice roots today.
Here they are all cleaned up. Then I peel them with a vegetable peeler.
Next I chopped them up and into the food processor they go.
Those chunks were too big, they just spun in the food processor. I dumped them out and chopped them up a little more. That worked.
The longer the chopped horseradish is exposed to air, the hotter it gets. This stuff was hot to start with and soon was suitable for use as a chemical weapon. I poured in a few tablespoons of white vinegar and a pinch of salt and gave it a buzz in the processor to stop the heat.
Like everyone else we resolved to eat healthier at New Year’s Eve. More fruit, more veggies, less refined carbs, less fat, less sugar. Yadda, yadda, yadda, heard it all before.
We do pretty good at getting vegetables, but fruit is always an issue. Fruit is dessert to me and that’s hardly a New Year’s Eve resolution solution.
I was watching a cooking show and the chef made a chicken, shrimp, and fruit salad. Poached chicken and shrimp, oranges, apples, and grapes tossed with lime juice and garnished with fried garlic and shallots, and chopped peanuts.
Sounds weird (or even nasty), right? When he was making it I thought it would be horrible, but it looked good, and thinking of my resolutions I decided to give it a try.
That’s a pretty salad! And it was shockingly good. Light and fresh. The apples soak up the lime dressing and are scrumptious.
Over 2 weeks into February and we’re still hanging in there with our New Year’s resolutions!
Chicken, Shrimp, and Fruit Salad
2 generous main course salads
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Granny Smith or other cooking apple
1 to 2 cups seedless grapes, cut in half
1 orange, segmented,
1 tablespoon garlic, fried
½ cup shallots, fried
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
16 medium shrimp
4 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice or lemon juice
2 to 3 serrano chilies
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Slice a few garlic cloves thin and slice a shallot thin. Fry gently in oil until just browned. Drain the garlic and shallots on paper towels and save the delicious oil for something else.
Cut the chicken into long thin strips and poach gently until done, maybe 5 minutes. Remove from the poaching liquid and set aside.
Poach the shrimp in the same liquid until done, maybe 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
When the chicken and shrimp have cooled you can shred or dice the chicken. You can leave the shrimp whole or dice them too if you like uniformity. I left mine whole.
Combine the chicken, shrimp, and peanuts and set aside. The salad is served at room temp.
Combine 1 teaspoon salt, the sugar, and the lime juice in a small bowl and mix. Instead of salt I used about 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce and I recommend that highly. If you don’t have fish sauce, soy sauce would be nice instead.
Set aside. Use as many or as few chilies as you like. I used about 1/2 of a big jalapeno and diced it fine. Dice or cut into fine rounds as you prefer.
Slice the cilantro leaves as fine or coarse as you like. Set aside.
Peel and slice or dice the apple.
Combine the apples, grapes, oranges, chicken, shrimp, and peppers in a large bowl. Add the lime juice and sugar mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so to soak in the dressing.
Garnish with the reserved shallots, garlic, and cilantro leaves.
Based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery