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Half Hill Farm featured in Murfreesboro Magazine

Half Hill Farm - Murfreesboro Magazine

Despite the pouring rain, we had a great time showing our USDA Certified Organic farm (Half Hill Farm) in Woodbury, TN to Allison Belt and photographer Rachel Tenpenny. They were here for a May 2014 feature in Murfreesboro Magazine on organic farms in Middle Tennessee.

We currently have Shiitake, Reishi and Turkey Tail mushroom logs available for online order, or call for pick up at either our farm or the Farmers’ Market in Woodbury.

 

Blogging, technology and self-fulfillment

December 29th, 2013 No comments

ascii me

I like to think I’m bi-lingual. If you’re reading this, one language is obvious, and the other is not. The one that’s not is HTML.

Like most people in 1990, I was using Unix commands to dig around on wide open gopher servers of the few universities that were online. I would “finger” active users and saw profiles that used ASCII text to create an image.

ASCII graphics weren’t new, but for a while it was as close as computers could get to delivering an image. At 1200 bps, ASCII was all you were going to get. What was new to me was live interaction with remote users through a computer hooked up to the telephone line.

If we could interact live behind ones and zeros online, it was a matter of time before it was something more real like audio and video. When it comes down to it, pretty much everything is data. That epiphany might sound like a no-brainer now, but to this day this idea leaves wide open many possibilities of how we can share things or experiences in the near future. The only things limiting our vision of the future back then was the size and power of computers.

This new space resonated with a part of me that yearned to share, explore, connect, document, learn, and grow. I felt a real calling. Here was another way to have an impact, a chance to connect with others, and most importantly a way to share my own story in a space where fear and judgement was less of a match for the power of truth and reason in a new public space.

head deskI went to college and then totally failed at computer science. I changed my major and then took time off school hitchhiking 1,500 miles across Canada and Alaska. I needed to figure some things out.

It turned out, some computer science professors didn’t share my vision of what was coming and thought it was important I learn Pascal which I’m guessing is the Latin of computer programming these days. “Computers do machine things. It’s not some party phone line of yapping teenagers figuring themselves out,” said 1992.

I had met what would become a common road block over the next 20 years, but I eventually returned to school more determined to change the world. That’s when Netscape happened. I quickly taught myself HTML, stuck a message in a bottle and got invited to work changing the world in Washington, D.C.

When I started my blog 14 years ago today, there were only 9.5 million websites in existence. We were quite literally at the beginning of a new world. There are almost 2 billion today. Sites like Facebook now capitalize on that very early yearning I experienced. The empowerment the web has given many people like myself has changed the politics of our country. Most of my life opportunities have flowed through the language of HTML, including meeting my husband.

websites
The past 14 years have taught me that self knowledge plus new technologies equals revolution. Maybe one day we’ll learn the language of reality and write trees, air and mountains, remotely molecularize elements, program germination, or reimage the output of a dreaming brain. But without a strong sense of self, revolution can go very wrong in that world to come. One lesson I’ve learned is there is another language one should master in preparation for any revolution. It’s the language of being the fullest, most actualized human you can be. You’ll never know what is really possible without that.

The revolutionary act of love

marriage license
… can change the world. When President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, I was a year from graduating from Middle Tennessee State University. In my last year I decided to dedicate myself to undoing it, faced death threats, campus protests, lots of local news coverage and soon found myself working with close friends at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the White House in Washington.

Like many of my colleagues, I put my life on hold and worked through many challenging defeats knowing in my heart that love will win and knowing in my mind that the United States Constitution could weather even the worst kind of enemy: hatred.

We worked in small offices on 14th Street, N.W., eventually moving to bigger offices. Shortly after I left for the White House, HRC’s talented and dedicated staff was raising millions of dollars and moved into a permanent presence that I’m sure will help defend forever the America I know and love.

Somewhere in this story, I met Vince, a Marine serving our country at Quantico under another policy since reversed: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. When he wanted to re-enlist on September 11, 2001, it took everything I had to stop him. His mind was on America while mine was on saving the only family I felt I had. We held a ceremony in 2002 attended only by friends. We got married legally in 2010 in the streets of Washington in front of a sandwich shop across from the court house. While we settled into jobs and the suburbs, our friends fought on.

We still live through challenges. We are one of just a few thousand married American couples living our lives in a revolutionary act and are so proud to know the promise of America is affirmed today by the United States Supreme Court for those who can now work less to prove themselves worthy and more on building a family and living the American dream we all rightfully deserve.

Farm hour: Purple Martins are nature’s bug zappers

February 3rd, 2013 No comments

purple martin housePart of our organic farm’s integrated pest management plan calls for the use of hosted beneficial birds as natural predators. Earlier this week I asked a couple of friends and folks at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) for some advice and was reminded about the amazing Purple Martin.

Growing up in the South, I remember Purple Martin houses on several farms. I never really thought there was a functional reason for hosting them, and later was convinced all they ate were mosquitoes.

I was wrong. State Zoologist David Withers sent me this great one pager from the Purple Martin Conservation Association that basically tells me the Purple Martin is one of nature’s best bug zappers. Check out TWRA’s wonderful online resource on common birds and how to host them.

Even if you are not an organic farmer, hosting Purple Martins can dramatically help reduce any flying insect pest on your property while reducing the use of chemical sprays and inviting a little of nature’s perfect aesthetic back to your home life.

We got two 16 family houses, both made in America, at our local Tractor Supply Company (photo: Vince snaps a Purple Martin house together). We’re using cut cedar posts from the property and will open the houses March 31 or as close to the time we begin seeing younger Purple Martins.

Here are a few points we’ve learned through some voracious reading over the past couple of snow days:

  • Purple Martins overwinter in Brazil and return year after year to the same nesting location.
  • They live exclusively in human made housing (East of the Rocky Mountains)
  • Houses must be over 10 feet off the ground, a minimum of 30 feet from a human dwelling (120 feet maximum), about 45 feet from any tree or bush and have nothing touching the pole, including support wires. Nothing around the housing can be taller.
  • Entry holes must be a specific dimension or competing birds become a problem (3 inches wide and 1 3/16 tall).
  • Purple Martins prefer white colored housing.
  • To attract a colony you must open the house when last year’s young return – 3 weeks after the first adults arrive. In Tennessee, adults arrive March 1-15. Adults will also colonize, but you must be persistent to scare off competing birds.
  • Purple Martins diet includes “dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders.”
  • Once hatched, Purple martins develop in about 30 days.
  • You can handle the chicks to manage the nests – parents do not mind human handling or scent.

Farm hour: making dirt

November 29th, 2012 No comments

orchard compost pile

It’s 152 degrees in the new orchard compost pile. This is the pile with pine needles and oak leaves added for more acidity. It’s layered with wood chips, horse manure and several gallons of rain water lightly sprinkled on each layer. This pile will become mulch for the blueberries in the Spring.

Farm hour: climbing the hill

November 21st, 2012 1 comment

4 wheeler
Grandpa’s old 4 wheeler

Farming is hard work, and it’s harder to imagine doing it without help. Hours make days like help makes it done, and it took a lot of both to plant the orchard last week.

I squeezed a month of farm hours into a week with some vacation time and figured out how farmers can go through so many chicken eggs every day. You get real hungry! After shoveling 3-4 tons of material (wood chip mulch, manure and dirt), tilling, moving rocks, water and planting 25 trees and bushes, breakfast looks good any time of the day.

4 wheelerNoah let me borrow his truck. We may have enough mulch to last 2 years now! Tim gave us the pine needles we needed to keep the blueberries happy. Len let me hop the fence for the cow manure our compost piles needed to come to life. Benny did the same, letting me drive all over his farm shoveling up horse manure. It all adds up to tons of help, literally.

But the one thing that came just in time to really bring the help together was a gift from my step dad: Grandpa’s old 4 wheeler. It’s got its problems, but it was the week’s work horse hauling everything up and down the hill: water, trees, machines.

New things can make you feel good, but old things can really make you feel loved. Grandpa used that 4 wheeler for about 10 years all over our farm in Smith County. They were his legs for a soul no where near done climbing that hill. Every time I open the barn and see it there I feel a little bit of him, and that has its own way of making every farm hour that much more special.

Farm hour: heating water with a compost pile

November 1st, 2012 No comments

There are a few videos on YouTube that will show you how to make your own outdoor hot water shower using the heat from a compost pile. The one above is the first one I saw using the Jean Pain method. I was surprised to learn not only how hot the pile can get and for how long, but that you can actually exchange the heat to water for other uses.

compost heatHeat is a natural byproduct of all the biomass interactions breaking down the pile. A hot pile can be around 160 degrees for a few days.

Our compost thermometer arrived today, so I checked the piles and found despite the recent freezing temperatures, the garden compost pile is at a toasty 97 degrees. The orchard pile is not doing so hot, but we’re about to add more fuel (leaves, manure, grass clippings and water) later this evening.

We do have plans for an outdoor shower, but we may use more readily available solar heat until we really need something like this.

Farm hour: quantifying what’s possible

October 30th, 2012 No comments

leaf harvest
One of three tarp loads of oak, maple, hickory and walnut leaves we gathered up for the orchard compost.

composting leavesThe orchard “mulchery” is set up. It’s 20 feet long, five feet wide and about 4 feet tall. If half the space is used, that should be 200 cubic feet of mulch. We added about 80 cubic feet of compacted, harvested leaves to use throughout the winter and started a pile with some of them today in the middle bin.

To start, I used a lot of the leaves, 15 gallons of cow manure from the neighbor’s field, grass clippings from today’s upper field mowing and about 8 gallons of water.

Water is going to be an issue until I can figure out an easier way to get it to the orchard. By the time my two five gallon buckets got there, I had lost about 4 gallons to sloshing.

upper fieldWhat’s Possible? I measured the space and determined if we use the entire space for blueberry bushes and apple trees, we’re looking at around 175 blueberry bushes and 32 apple trees. Using non-organic yields, the potential looks like this:

  • Apple:10-20 bushels per tree is 320-640 bushels of apples, 960-3200 gallons of cider or 13,440-26,880 lbs. of apples
  • Blueberries: 15 lbs. per bush is 2,625 lbs. of berries
  • Market: at current market value: $26,000 – $47,000

What’s Practical? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. We have about an hour of daylight each night and two weekend days of winter farm hours. We can’t eat all that, and we probably can’t process all that for others. Can we do this?

We’re thinking of starting with 8 apple trees and 10 blueberry bushes, but I’m mulching as though we’re doing it all.

Farm hour: harvesting leaf mulch

October 19th, 2012 No comments

leaf mulchThis is one Fall and Winter chore I think will really pay off no matter what we decide to plant in the orchard.

Mulching.

We’re going to need lots of good mulch, and I think we might have enough ingredients on the farm. I’m not really sure, but each evening farm hour gets us closer.

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around how I can possibly produce as much mulch as we’re going to need for the garden and orchard, and then I found gold.

This evening’s haul was a dark, nicely decayed, heavy leaf matter raked from under some huge oak, hickory and maple trees that grow in the upper field fence line. There is no telling how much of this is here.

Categories: farm, food, life, values Tags: , , ,

Edward Grantham of Isle of Wight County

December 15th, 2009 No comments

Surry Land Patents 1614 - 1666

You remember this map? It’s an overlay of a Surry Land Patent Map from 1614 – 1666. It showed where John Roger’s held 200 acres of land he was granted on May 14, 1666. He later deeded this property (highlighted on the map where it is likely to be) to Edward Grantham where 1694 he was the subject of a presentation by the Grand Jury for “Entertaining Indians contrary to Law & for not comeing to church.”

Edward bought 200 acres in Surry County on September 23, 1682, from John Rodgers, Sr., and his wife Mary.  The land was purchased for 1,000 pounds of tobacco with the contract written on the back of the land patent that had been issued to Rodgers in 1666 by Governor William Berkeley.

Edward sold 100 acres of this land to William Jonson in 1684 for 1,650 pounds of tobacco. The other 100 acres and “40 foot dwelling” was sold to Thomas Davis in 1686 for 3,500 pounds of tobacco.

Edward received a land patent of 300 acres on May 29, 1683. The land was located in Southwarke Parish, Surry County, on the branches of Cypress Swamp adjoining Thos. Jordan. The patent was granted for the transportation of six persons into the colony: Isabel Huberd, Jon. Bincks, Tho. Peel, Jon. Anderson, Jon. Walker, & Timo. Jackson. Edward Grantham’s property on Cypress Swamp was known as Grantham’s Reeds. Many of the deeds concerning this land mention the “cart path,” which was actually a well traveled road leading from North Carolina to Southwarke Church and the warehouses at Gray’s Creek.

Here’s a passage about John Rogers from Southside Virginia Families, Volume 2 by John Bennett Boddie noting his role in Bacon’s Rebellion.

surryland

Here’s a much longer account of Sir Thomas Grantham’s role in the Bacon Rebellion shared with me today by someone who shared an interest in Edward Grantham in particular.