Polyface Farm (Part 3)

This is continued from “Polyface Farm (Part 2)“.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

If this way of farming produces abundant, healthy food, with lower expenses, risks and dependence on outside systems why don’t all farms work this way?

There are three main reasons why more farms aren’t run this way (concepts pointed out by Joel during the tour, but we flushed them out in our own words below).

1. Change is hard – Change is always hard, it may be exciting, but the unknown is uncertain. It is extra hard if all you know is one way to do things. It is extra, extra hard if you have invested in the facilities and equipment for industrial agriculture, with contracts with these industries. Change is hard!

2. Lies are powerful – Industrial agriculture is built to benefit Big Pharma and Big Ag. The costs for fertilizer, shots, vets, feed, pesticides, etc. mean huge profits for the Pharmaceutical and Agricultural industries. Then add on that most pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides and all the transportation is based on petroleum, there are huge profits for Big Oil. These are three powerful players with huge bankrolls to influence government policy (and subsidies), education (of what farmers should do) and outlets (to control advertising and sales). These entities thrive on lies about how the food system should work and strive to keep it working that way, even if it is unsustainable, as we see happening with food shortages around the world. (We talk about how sad it is that people are starving “in the world, over there” because power hungry groups block food distribution. We have the same problems here. They are just so close that we don’t see them.)

3. More manual labor – Most farms today are run by a few technicians and a lot of machines. Moving chicken tractors around the field, calling cows to the next paddock, planting seeds in mulch, etc. all take manual labor. Sustainable farming takes the expenses that were going to the Pharmaceutical, Agricultural and Petroleum industries and invests it into people. These farms aren’t full of machines and a few technicians, they are full of a community of people with a few machines interacting with plants and animals on a healthy farm. This change of mindset and farm setup can be a hard jump to make (though more and more are making it).

As we thought about it, we realized that these same influences impact the decisions families make. Why don’t more people raise their own food, train their own children and have the peace of birth at home (the ways that things were done since the creation of the world until modern history). 

Change is hard, when all you know is what your parents and the society around us has done. That doesn’t make it right or best, it just makes it what we know and change is hard. We are trapped in the worldly system in numerous ways we don’t even realize, or even if we do we are often too tired or too busy to make a change.  

Lies are powerful. We have been told that the professionals can train our children best and that women need experts and machines for a healthy delivery. While there is a (rare) need for intervention at times, the peace of a homebirth, possibly with a skilled midwife, not only doesn’t have these problems, but often knows how to peacefully take care of problems that are considered medical emergencies in the hospital. However, there is big money and big advertising, promoting our need to follow the world’s systems. And for education… no one knows, loves and can care and mentor your child better than you as you seek to love the Lord above everything else.

Finally, more manual labor. Sending children off to industrial schools seems easy. Eating and living any way we like seems convenient as we buy our foods and don’t have to plant, water, weed, cook and prepare them. Then we can let the hospitals fix our health issues. Letting the system take care of our health, responsibilities and problems is tempting. 

As we break free from the world’s systems, we have more freedom, but as we teach our children, great freedom comes with great cost and responsibility. We need God’s mercy and grace daily to live out our faith.  In the meantime, our life has more substance with richer personal relationships. His blessings are manyfolds just like the crop a farmer plants. Hard work? Yes! Rewards? Yes, we always reap more than we sow. All for His glory! 

Perhaps you have had a prompting that something isn’t right with the world’s systems, but you haven’t had the evidence, energy or desire to give it much thought. You follow the flow against your will and hope for the best since everyone else is doing it anyway. Our prayer is that we would have ears to hear and eyes to see and then to obey as God leads. We pray the same for you.

The trip to Polyface Farm was a wealth of knowledge about how the world works and our place in it. They will answer any questions about farming or anything else, as they want to help others duplicate this sustainable way of life.

The more we understand God’s amazing no-waste system, the less we feel we know. We have so much to discover, to learn, to apply and to embrace. We don’t have our own farm yet (though anywhere can be a “homestead”), but we still had so many insights and are excited to see where God takes us next in his plan for our lives! Writing this post is our first step of response as we reflect and apply what we do understand. 

And therein lies the most important point. It’s not that everyone should have a farm, raise their own food, home educate their children, no longer need a doctor, etc. The point is that everyone should earnestly pray, seek God and follow the ways he lays out in his Word and leads by his Spirit. The “default” should be to invest into our relationship with Christ, seeking him and his ways, rather than defaulting to the ways this world presents as solutions and distractions.

We fail over and over and over again. We struggle and fall and need to get up again, repent and move on. Life is hard and gives plenty of opportunities for growth as Christ makes us more into his image.

While Joel has many books about how to do sustainable farming, his book “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation” gives a bigger view of the “Why” and “How” God created the world to work. We recommend it as a book that every Christ-follower at this time of history would benefit from reading (or listening to Joel read on the audio book). It is not the nuts and bolts of farming, it is more of an eye opening look at the world we live in and the way God created it to be (even after the fall). Just be prepared in your heart and mind to be transformed as the Truth leads you to more freedom! 

It is important to note that Polyface wasn’t an instant success, Joel wasn’t a “celebrity farmer” and there are other farms doing what they are doing (though not nearly enough). His family moved to the farm when it was in shambles. They left all they knew. They didn’t know what was right as they figured out what was next, they just knew that the industrial ways were not right and that God’s ways are best. They took risks. They struggled. They questioned. They failed. They remained faithful. And God is always faithful. It wasn’t until Michael Pollen’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” that the world really heard about Polyface Farm and Joel Salatin. They had been faithful with God’s leading, and God chose to raise them up as an example.

We don’t need to know how our faithfulness will turn out. We just need to seek God, know that he is good, know what is right and trust and obey, no matter the cost.
In addition to his book ““The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”, some additional recommendations are the films “Fresh: Sustainable Food Production in America” and “Polyfaces: Food Without Chemicals: From Family Farm to Table”.

Polyface Farm (Part 2)

This is continued from “Polyface Farm (Part 1)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

Our Personal Applications (not specifically mentioned at the farm, but from what we learned)

  • Apply everything we learned to our family and children – While they love children (which was obvious while we were there), they didn’t specifically give parenting advice. However, so much of what we learned about caring for the land and animals is true for children as well.
  • The world wants us to plug into the systems of the world.
    • It wants us to plug into the food systems of processed foods and industrial farming, producing sicker children (and adults) with higher costs.
    • It then wants us to plug into the medical systems, with all the costs that come with that!
    • It wants us to plug our children into the state-run education system, to be taught that the other systems are normal and good and the first place to turn for hope (while leaving God out of everything).
    • It wants us to plug into the financial systems of needing to buy everything, while forgetting the skills for how to survive without the (failing) systems. When we can grow our own food, and thus eat healthier and become healthier, we begin to break these systems and the financial binds they place on us. We can then barter for needs that we can’t provide ourselves and grow a healthy community!
  • By God’s mercy, we are slowly and progressively weaning out of these systems. Our family has been blessed to have no need for sick visits as we have focused on treating our bodies (the temple of the Holy Spirit) the way he created with God-made food. As we have seen his work and the growing need, we have grown more confident and passionate to share His work in us through His food as we understand more and hear others’ similar stories. We think of it as “becoming more human” as we grow our bodies the way God intended and was the way things were done until the recent development of modern medicine, modern agriculture and the industrial systems.
  • By being set free from the medical system we had very peaceful home births (our first birth was in a hospital, which was a very different experience, though still a drug free, natural birth).
  • By being set free from the education system we have been able to educate our children at home. This has allowed us all (not just the children) to have a better understanding of how God created all of his creation (and all we learn about it) to work together to point to Him! It has also allowed our children to discover and develop interests that they may not have otherwise discovered.
    • “Home-discipling” (as we prefer over “homeschooling”) has also allowed the blessing of real social interaction. Instead of just having a few hours in highly controlled situations with everyone the same age, or only being home for a short time in the evening, our family is learning  to work through difficulties and conflicts and to grow together. Home-discipling isn’t about our always being a perfect match and getting along… It’s about learning to honor God as we live, love, forgive and grow together (even when it hurts)! Not every family is called to homeschool, but all Christian parents are called to make disciples at home and carefully and prayerfully consider what God would have them include in their child’s education.

If this way of farming (discussed more in Polyface Farm Part 1) produces abundant, healthy food, with lower expenses, risks and dependence on outside systems why don’t all farms work this way? This will be discussed in “Polyface Farm Part 3”.

The Father Fortress

“How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Matthew 23:37b

When my three year old comes running over to drag me to make a “Baba Fort”, it is music to my ears. He still loves to be close and to feel the safety of the Baba Fort.

“What is a “Baba Fort”?” … I’m glad you asked. :o)

In its simplest form a Baba Fort is when my son lays on the couch and I am over him on my hands and knees. (Sort of like a mix between a “Child’s Pose” and the “cat” of “Cat/Cow” in Yoga, with my son underneath.) My head usually rests on the arm of the couch.

Some variations are that my hand can be a window that he can ask to open or close to look out or we may put a blanket over my back. While my seven year old will sometimes join him for a double wide fort (which probably looks quite awkward, but the goal isn’t truly that they are in the fort, but that they “feel” like they are in the fort). The variation that best involves all three boys (including the 11 year old), is the “Attack Baba Fort”. The “Attack Baba Fort” would be better named the “Defensive Baba Fort”, but “Attack” sounds cooler. For this variation one of the boys (usually the youngest is in the Baba Fort. The other two boys are attacking in various ways and the one in the fort is kept safe. They may be trying to tag him or shoot him with toy tarts, but the Baba Fort (aka: me) blocks and pushes them away with my outside hand or foot. Another may be that they are climbing on top of the Baba Fort while the little one is kept safe inside. One variation that is a little different is “Escape from the Baba Fort” (more like a prison). For this, they are in the Baba Fort and I close it up fairly well (depending on their age), and they try to wiggle their way out (and then come in and try again). We have all sorts of variations that develop. The point is that the youngest (or youngest two) feel the closeness and safety of being with their “Baba” (me), and the others get the fun of wrestling, attacking, etc. 

It is also nice that I can have conversations with the child in the Baba Fort and they feel that they are all alone in a safe world with me (although we are in the middle of the living room in the middle of the house).

The “Baba Fort” was discovered by accident one day. I was exhausted to the point of hardly being able to keep my eyes open and my youngest two children wanted to play. I don’t remember exactly how, but out of that the “Baba Fort” was born. I could close my eyes and just be there while all of the boys were busy either being in the fort, or climbing on the fort.

While I don’t have girls, perhaps it could be a “Baba Cloud Castle”. Really, it could be anything as long as the story is set into their imaginations (Baba Tank, Baba Cave, Baba House, etc.).

Now, I do want to caution that the “Baba Fort” should be coupled with other, more intentionally involved activities and not just as a way to justify lazy parenting, but it is great for some quiet time to be close with young children… or when you can hardly keep your eyes open.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In Matthew 23:37, while Jesus is lamenting over Jerusalem, he reflects, “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” The heart of Christ is to be close to his children. Like a mother hen protects her defenseless chicks.

I know my desire to provide for and protect my children, to have them trust me and to provide for them while providing opportunities for them to grow. (As imperfect as my provision and protection are)

To Christ, I am the helpless child. Do I run to him, hunger for time with him in His word? Do I cast my cares on him (for he cares for me) (1 Peter 5:7)? Or do I try to make life work on my own plans and efforts? Christ longs to gather me into his gentle care.

One day the Baba Fort helped me to see Christ’s desire for us, to be close, to protect and provide, to be our source of strength and life.

I need to learn to live in the “Baba Fort” of my Heavenly Father, and to point to the true Fortress, who rules over the heavens and the earth.

A note to fathers: Whether your children are young enough for the “Baba Fort” or are older, we can be there to cover them with unconditional love and the sacrificial gift of time and connection. How are we doing at lovingly discipling our children as we point them to Christ?

August Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

Tomorrow is the last day of the summer session at Tri-C. It has been a wonderful group of students, and while I am excited for the break, I will miss seeing them. They invested their summer and worked hard with a positive attitude. This is a reminder to me and to all of us. Don’t take a break from learning and growing.

This learning and growing can take the form of learning something new, developing a new habit, taking a class, etc. Or it can look more like taking a step out of the busyness of life to reflect, to see where life is heading and what needs to change, to seek God, his face and his ways. What is important and being missed in the speed of life?

For active learning, one resource we recently discovered is through the Cuyahoga library. They offer free resources, classes and online classes. One that we have been using is Creativebug. (Click here for resources that are free with your library card.)

Other hobbies and skills that have been brewing in our family recently are balloon twisting and playing the recorder.

How about you? What are you learning? How are you growing? Do you need to take some time to step back and look at your life and direction?

Here are some events for this month that may inspire you to continue to learn and grow.

August Events

Other events that are not specific to this month

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

 

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

July Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

Freedom!

William Wallace made this final cry as he was killed in the movie Braveheart. Closer to home, countless soldiers have cried this same cry as they charged into battle and nearly certain death. The signers of our Declaration of Independence were crying out “Freedom!” as they boldly signed an act of high treason against the British crown. Many unknown and unsung men, women and children paid a high price to secure and defend that freedom.

This July 4, we celebrate our Independence Day. Let us take just a moment to reflect on some of the freedoms which God has blessed us with in this great nation (from the Bill of Rights)

  • right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
  • the right of the people to keep and bear Arms
  • The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury

As a result of these, and other stated rights, we also enjoy the freedom to:

  • birth and raise our children as God directs to the glory of God
  • educate our children as God directs to the glory of God
  • gather to worship as God directs to the glory of God
  • travel and see God’s creation of nature and culture
  • and many, many more.

With all the freedoms with which we have been blessed, we need to meditate on the warning and command given in 1 Peter 2:16, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.”

We may fall into mistaking our freedom as a right to do whatever we please. We are to be free from sin to live for God.

May we remember our source and purpose of freedom as we celebrate this Independence day.

To that end, here are events in July, many of which are free… but just like our freedoms… everything free comes at a cost to someone. Let us enjoy with gratitude!

July Events

Other events that are not specific to this month

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

 

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

June Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

The spring rains have brought the green of life to northeast Ohio. The birds are chirping, squirrels are scampering and I saw my first Monarch butterfly a few days ago (and the mosquitoes seem to still be sleeping!). What a wonderful time to just get out for a walk, a run, a ride, or a sit and soak up the beauty and freshness of God’s creation!

The biggest event for this month… just grab your family and go outside, you can hardly go wrong. From a path or a nature center in the Metroparks, to a (now empty) school playground, to just playing catch in the yard, this is a great season to just get outside and enjoy life together.

For many it also means a summer vacation, or at least an extended weekend, which allows some time out of the day to day routine to think about purpose and direction. Are things heading in a meaningful direction? Are we seeking and walking with God? What are some changes to make, or some victories to celebrate? Life, like the spring, passes so fast. Let’s make the most of it!

To that end, here are some events to get out, reflect, and just invest time together!

June Events

Other events that are not specific to this month

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

 

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month. Call to confirm.)

May Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

Life!!!

Just get outside or look out the window and you will see the yearly celebration of life. Today we planted a new apple tree. All winter we saw the one we plated last year. It looked small and dead, yet we knew it was alive. It was just doing what God made it to do, and now it is alive with green… though flowers and apples require another few years of waiting.

We can enjoy the beauty of a sunny, snowy day because we know, it’s all still alive, it just is taking a break to allow the artistry of winter.

The animals are tucked away… yet there is life.

The birds eggs (and the bugs) have not yet hatched… yet there is life.

Take this month to just celebrate LIFE!

We aren’t listing as many events… they aren’t needed!

The parks are alive, inviting us to come and explore.

The stars are sparkling, inviting us to stay up just a bit later.

Slow down a bit, get your family together, and just enjoy LIFE!

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13-16

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.” Psalm 19:1-6

May Events

Other events that are not specific to this month

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

 

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

January Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

Happy New Year!!!

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Psalm 19:1-4

As we celebrate the new year, we celebrate what God has done and what God is doing. “In the beginning God created…” and God is still working in His creation and in our lives. In fact, “the heavens declare the glory of God”!

To start the new year, we would like to highlight an amazing, meaningful, free activity that is great for the whole family at different levels. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has a temporary exhibit (9/29/2018-4/28/2019) called “BUILT TO SURVIVE: BIOMECHANICS”. We were there today and it is amazing!!! It’s as if it were created to show the amazing wisdom, power, creativity, etc. of our amazing Creator. Our 4 year old, 8 year old, Elyse and myself (It’s hard to speak for the baby), all thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit and it had the right mix of hands on, and deeper information to keep us all engaged and amazed. (See below for the “free” part, since the museum is not usually free. :o)

For those who are homeschooling their children, we have another exciting event to highlight. Bible Study Fellowship offers a great way to go deeper into God’s Word with a view to know him more. The day women’s class in Middleburg Heights has had the pre-school program for years, but that was difficult for families who are homeschooling. Starting this year, they will be adding the school age program for K-12!!! If you, or your children, would like to go deeper into God’s Word. This may be worth your checking out! BSF continues to be a huge blessing for our family and we are excited to pass this along.

With those highlights, here are other activities to celebrate God and his creation in the the month of January.

January Events

The events marked “Free RSVP” do require advance registration, which may fill up quickly. Be sure to check whether the registration is still open before you plan your trip.

Events marked “($$$)” have a fee.

So, How do I go to the Natural History Museum for FREE!?!

We encourage supporting the museums, etc. However, if finances are going to keep you from going and you’re willing to have a little extra hassle, there is a way to go for free through the public library.

Here is how:

  1. Get a Cleveland Public Library card. (Bring your Cuyahoga County card and they can use the same card) – FREE
  2. Ask to check out a “Family Pass” for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. This is good for six people to enjoy the museum AND the planetarium for FREE!
    1. The branches sometimes run out. If they don’t have one try again later, or try another branch.
    2. These do not need to be returned. You turn them in at the museum in exchange for tickets.
  3. Tell a friend… share the good news! (Especially while the “BUILT TO SURVIVE: BIOMECHANICS” is still at the museum!)

Enjoy your New Year as you focus on the Beginner and Sustainer of all things!

Other events that are not specific to this month

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

December Free Family Events (Cleveland, OH)

Merry Christmas!!!

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2

As we enjoy the spirit of Christmas, the lights, the family, the gifts and the music, I pray that we will once again remember the true Spirit of Christmas, Jesus the eternal Creator and Sustainer of all things, entering into His creation, not in power in might, but as a baby. He is the light of the world, bringing the light of life. He is the one who provides the way for us, sinful people, to be part of the family of our holy God! He is the ultimate gift, come not just as a baby (that didn’t last long, as all babies grow quickly), but as the Lamb of God, come to be the final sacrifice, to pay for our sins! And the one of whom every song should be sung, to the praise of his glory!

CHRISTmas… the Lord has come!

As you celebrate Christmas, remember to be still and appreciate what he has done. As you attend events, may this child, who would become our Savior and King, be at the front of you mind, words and actions.

Here are a sampling of some of the events and opportunities around the Cleveland area, may they point you to the King born in a manger.

Ongoing Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

 

Weekly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

Monthly Recurring Events (Some may have different schedules this month)

December Events

The events marked “Free RSVP” do require advance registration, which may fill up quickly. Be sure to check whether the registration is still open before you plan your trip.

Enjoy your December as you celebrate the coming of the King, our risen Lord Jesus!

Called to go, Willing to stay: A Blessing Counting Journal (12)

  1. Parental blessing (b)

Let the Little Children Come! (Matthew 19:14)

Okay, back to the times of house repair. I am grateful God has allowed me to see more of His preparations from years ago for the heart work for His eternal glory. The trip to China confirmed His unchanging love and perfect timing in everything and every season in our life. Since I didn’t have a set time or place to study God’s Word during the house construction, I did my Bible study whenever I could, in front of the kids. It was not my favorite way of studying the Bible. But the Lord not only knows my season in life but orchestrates it. He always provided what I needed to hear and met me where I was. It could be just one verse, one hymn or a radio program, which was sufficient for my day.

My four year old then could see my genuine need to spend time with the Lord. Not only did he learn to have some quiet time together with me, but he also wanted to read his own children’s Bible and took notes like I did. Whenever I think about this, my heart is warmed by God’s grace. Our kids don’t need us to put them first but they do need to see Who (the Ultimate higher authority) we are under and worshipping. God used my children to challenge me to worship Him at all times and see life as an adventure with my Lord.

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It takes creativity and open mind to grow life in the midst of house repair. 🙂

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