Silver Linings

An Unexpected Opportunity to Start Our Homestead

In 2014, Joseph and I decided to meet and go for a hike after learning online that we were both interested in farming and homesteading.  He was the first person I had ever met who had a strong desire to build a self-reliant life by learning to do things oneself rather than buying a product or service. Things like growing and preserving our own vegetables, pastured meats, eggs, dairy products and animal feed; fixing our own fences, barns and equipment; making gifts, household goods and art; stewarding the land and making it better instead of exploiting it for resources.  Even more astonishing, Joseph didn’t blink an eye when I hoisted out my Homesteading primer at our romantic dinner- The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live it by John Seymour– and proceeded to show him how a person could feed a family of four with only an acre of good land.  That was our first date and it was perfect!

When we decided to marry a year later,  we were unable to immediately start our homesteading dreams.  Joseph’s parents had left him a stunning farm in our hometown, but we needed to be in the Atlanta area to care for our youngest son, Jack Bratcher.  He had 4+ years to complete high school.  During our spare time, we learned some of the skills we would need to homestead.  Slowly, we worked on changing our philosophy about buying, going out and being entertained to develop an increasingly simple and frugal lifestyle.  We experimented with organic vegetable and herb gardening .  We attended classes in permaculture, foraging, food preserving, composting, fermenting, small livestock and a host of other helpful topics.  We started a serious library of traditional skills, farming and other books and resources.  Slowly, we began securing the equipment we would need. 

In 2019, Joseph was unexpectedly offered a job five minutes from the family farm in Tennessee.  The chances of finding a job in our little town are slim to none and we were confident that God was making a path for us to move forward with our homestead.  However, I still had a job that I loved in Atlanta.  For many months, I worked in Atlanta during the week and visited Joseph on the farm on most weekends.  It was so exhausting that I wasn’t able to contribute much in the way of homesteading projects. Instead, I spent 25 hours commuting each week and the rest working and sleeping.

As all of you know, March 13, 2020 rocked the world with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic.  By the first of April, my office in Atlanta was closed and I was working from home… the farm home.  This incredibly challenging period of history presented us with an unexpected opportunity.  Since I had no more commute, it was like gaining another day each week.  There was time in the evenings and weekends to begin the work of building our homestead.  I ramped up my efforts to get seeds planted and sunning on shelves on the sun porch.  We had chosen varieties of tomatoes for multiple purposes: slicing and cherry tomatoes for eating fresh; tomato varieties for canning, making sauce, salsa, paste and drying.  Several varieties of colorful sweet bell peppers and spicy ones for drying.

Joseph and Spencer (my son) had been prepping our 1/2 acre garden bed for a couple of months.  We were thrilled to spend Easter weekend getting some cooler weather crops sowed directly into the garden plot – sweet peas, sugar snap peas, Easter Egg radishes, romaine lettuce, butterhead lettuce, kale, and Ruby Red swiss chard.  We also planted red, purple, white and yellow onion transplants and sets.  Most importantly are the potatoes – red and yukon gold.  Our fingerlings had not arrived, but we did plant alot a couple of weeks later.

Within a few weeks, we are thrilled to be working on our homesteading dream.  It should be an interesting journey and we plan to capture it here. We are just novice homesteaders, but it feels like the right path forward!

Survival of the Fittest…Politician

From the Organic Prepper:


I have seen many people killed, a lot of women and children too, civilians. A huge number of people suffered, were hungry and cold and were terrified through that period.

But I can count on one hand the dead or hungry politicians in that time.


Things were good for them through that period. Some of them ended up even richer. A lot of them are still powerful in the same or different parties, and are still talking about “their people” or “ causes” or “fear from others”.

It is the way it works.

The Fox and His Dream

I keep having this recurring dream, maybe once or twice a week, since about fall 2017.

The dream begins the same way each night.  I am walking through a moonlit field.  I can hear the tall, dry grass scruffing against my boots, but when I look down, I don’t see my boots, I see black paws.  At that point I realize I’m not looking down, really, I’m looking backward, and I have a big, fluffy tail.

The realization that I’m not human anymore, that I’ve turned into a fox, is only fleeting as the baying of hounds always interrupts my fox-ish revelry.  I realize I’m not walking in the moonlight, I’m running, being chased by a pack of hounds.   Were it not for their blood thirsty nature, it would be fun to evade them I think.

My fox nature knows this game – I am quick, I am lithe, I am wily; I will evade my pursuers.  I am not tired, I am not scared, I am not making haste and making waste.  I always make for a dark tree line and enter a copse of trees surrounding a sink hole.  Ahead of me is an old poplar on the edge of the sink hole, it leans precariously over the void, so I run up its slanted trunk and leap to the other side.  That legion of canines will follow me up the tree and fall into the void and while I have made my escape.

But lately I have emerged from the far side of the sink hole into a large open field.  I notice I am heading down hill, the air is so much cooler here.  From the all points around me I see riders with lanterns and hounds approaching me.  They gallop through the field as I first run one direction and then another.  I begin to feel scared and tired, despairing for egress.  In an impossibly short moment I am surrounded, their lights shining on me from every direction.  The horsemen, whom I cannot see for their headlamps, begin to loose their hounds.  They come at me, tearing into my flesh at what seems like hundreds of different places.  I have no choice but to collapse and play dead.

The hunt master does not call the dogs off, they just lose interest.  When they do, I jump up and run toward the river.   I am still quick, I am still lithe, I am still wily, and most importantly, I am still alive.  The hounds and hunters pursue, working now like a blacksmith – some ford the river to be the unwelcome anvil, and some continue the chase, the unwelcome hammer.   My choices are few at this point, be torn to shreds on the river bank or be torn to shreds on the opposite river bank.

I plunge into the river, feeling the cold water zap my strength and immobilize my muscles.  That’s when I realize the current is carrying me away.  I am being swept down river.  The bifurcated pack of hounds starts to follow me, racing down the river’s banks but I am swept too quickly into the darkness and they lose the trail.

I am just not sure where the current is carrying me.  Have I escaped?

Frankly, I always have to use the bathroom when I wake up from this dream.  Maybe the river symbolizes life…or maybe it’s just a full bladder.  After all, Freud is said to have quipped, in re dream interpretation, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

The Scariest Word in Physics

Entropy is the scariest word in physics and possibly life.

Entropy is defined as the gradual decline into disorder.  How depressing.  No matter what we do, everything tends to disorderliness.  This, of course, explains the Sisyphean task of house work, but it doesn’t make it anymore palatable.


I was looking out our kitchen window right after I hastened the microwave oven door’s entropy by shutting it too hard.  I noticed moss on a limb in the woods, and that gave me hope.    I thought to myself, “That moss has sure found a place to thrive.” Although we have to contend with entropy, still, life springs forth eternally and indefatigably.


Have you ever noticed all the weeds that grow in sidewalk cracks where, over time, a small amount of soil has accumulated?  That’s a weed with a positive attitude as there is little chance to thrive in that crack, but still it tries.

Oddly enough, that weed is supporting entropy.  The retention of moisture in concrete, along with the action of roots pressing against it, hastens the concrete’s entropy.  And eventually, that concrete will crumble and life will plow right over it, leaving no evidence that sidewalk was ever there except in your fading memory.

How interesting that life just chugs on, despite entropy, or maybe because of entropy.  This gives me some insight into the nature of change.   Change is simply a gentrified form of entropy, or maybe change is the bastard cousin of entropy, twice removed and inbred with enthalpy.  I don’t know, but there is a connection.

I do know this, though: time and entropy both relentlessly march onward.  That used to make me sad, but in this context, it’s also life that is marching onward.  From destruction springs new life.  After the winter, there is spring.

If life can continue and exist in spite of increasing disorder, maybe we can, too.



Country Sayings Saturday

Not a Country Saying Per Se…

I received a comment about jumping off the bus from a friend via email, “After my stroke, I was “placed” in a nursing home. Had no choice, was not really in a mental-physical condition to object. Discharged myself against medical advice ADSAP (As Damn Soon As Possible). I continue to recover, but I am doing so on my own terms and not drooling in a corner waiting for my microwaved gruel. So even if youre (sic) ON “the bus”, recognize its a bus…cue Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!”…and do whatever is required to get yourself OFF the bus…” (emphasis added).

There you have it, sheer damn manliness with a Star Wars sub-quote.  Sounds like what my Dad would have done had he ever been in that situation.  That’s tough, country tough.

Or as our hero Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up!”  He might not have been from the country, but he was from a country, right?




McMinnville Never Felt This Way Until Now…

A Plagiarized Love Letter to My Wife –

But I ain’t turning back to living that old life no more
So rock me momma like a wagon wheel
Rock me momma any way you feel

And I gotta get a move on before the sun
I hear my baby calling my name and I know that she’s the only one

Because when you’re jumping off the bus, you gotta have someone in your corner.



Jumping Off the Bus

We have wanted to get our homestead up and running for years…literally years.

However, stuff just keeps happening and nothing gets done.

This is the way of man – we get distracted.  We get off task.  So it’s time to jump off the normal bus and see what I can do.

I realized that I was replaying a chapter of my life from long ago – a period of time when I was doing something that I hated for people I did not respect.  I changed my career then, and I am doing it again.

I jumped off the bus last week. I am done with safety and construction.  I am taking a lower paying job so I can go back to school full time.  My studies will enable homesteading.

We are not done – we are reorganizing. We will farm ,we will build community, and we will make a lasting impact.  Just you wait and see.

Under The Not-So-Old Apple Tree

As homesteaders-in-progress, our goal is to do more things for ourselves.  The primary goal is to feed ourselves with the fruits, vegetables, meats and wild edibles that we grow or gather ourselves.  Toward this end, we recently spent a weekend planting fruit trees of various sorts, blueberry bushes and several varieties of grapes.  Though these fruit starts are tiny in the field with their pink ribbon markers, we imagine them feeding our family someday.  We see a beautiful orchard blooming in the springtime and heavy with fruit during the summer.  We see a grape arbor weighted down with red, green and black clusters of fruit.  We see little children eating blueberries from a hedge by the cool of the woods.

Having grown up in the nursery capital of the world, we have seen a whole lot of ornamental trees and shrubs that are grown for sale into nursery centers and home improvement stores all over the country.  The proliferation of ornamentals occurs because most folks purchase these trees to beautify their yards.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that desire, but we propose that you can have both beauty and bounty when you plant fruit trees and shrubs.  It’s double return for the investment!

Country Sayings Saturday

Why it’s Called Dogwood Winter

Spring can be an unpredictable time of year, with warm, summer-like conditions one day and snow the next. It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security that the weather will remain hospitable when — BAM! — a freak cold snap hits and reminds you that winter only ended a few weeks ago.

Much like Indian summer — a period of unseasonable warmth in the middle of autumn — these periods of springtime cold have a name. Actually, they have several names. The little winters in the middle of spring are called variously Dogwood Winter, Blackberry Winter, Locust Winter, Whippoorwill Winter, Redbud Winter, and a few other regional variations.  Though predictable, the climb from cold of winter to the warmth of summer and back again is not completely smooth. Small “blips” in the overall pattern reveal noticeable fluctuations that can be observed from year to year. These blips are called singularities in weather lingo. For a singularity to be recognized, it has occur during at least 50% of years. Indian Summer is a long-established singularity. Dogwood Winter is another.
But why is it called Dogwood Winter, or any of those other names, for that matter? Weather forecasters SickDogwood-2015_originaldo know there will be a last frost, but it’s not predictable enough to say on what day, so we follow what the oldtimers taught us: a cold snap usually occurs around the time when the dogwoods are in bloom. With the possibility of frost happening during Dogwood Winter, they also knew to wait until after the dogwood bloomed to plant tender vegetables and annuals.  My mother said that you get a “winter” every time something white blooms.

Oldtimers also knew that blackberries need a cold snap to set buds on the blackberry canes, so as sure as night follows day, there will be a cold snap when the blackberries bloom, called “Blackberry Winter”. It comes with a somewhat less severe return of a continental polar air mass after the maritime tropical air masses have begun to dominate the weather.

One largely forgotten term for a patch of cold during the springtime is “Stump Winter”. This end-of-spring cold snap marks the last cold spell and derives its name from the use of the last of the fire wood – the stumps – for heat.  This is also known as “Whippoorwill Winter”. The whippoorwill migrates from wintering in Mexico to their summer range farther north in late May to early June. There is even another colloquialism for this spring cold snaps, which is: “Linsey-Woolsey Britches Winter,” referring to a type of winter long underwear which could be put away after the last cold snap. Whatever you call it, the last winter is not as cold as the other “winters” but still a bit of cold snap.

Me?  I don’t take my coat out of the truck until I need to make room for carrying home 4th of July fireworks…’cause it’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!