Monday, April 4, 2011

Back from the Scottsville, KY Amish Fair & Auction

I spent a couple days at the Amish Fair & Auction in Scottsville, KY. This was the 27th annual edition, and it was well organized and very, very informative.

That the Oil Age is coming to a close is approaching "boring" as a discussion topic. It is, in my humble opinion, and there are no macro policy responses that are likely to be worth your time in the offing any time soon.

So best to get on with life.

Before I get on with that, I wanted to share my observations about the people I met and spoke with these last few days. Let us call them the "Amish" and the "English" ("The English" is how the Amish refer to non-Amish).

In appearance, the Amish are, unsurprisingly, in very robust physical shape. Most appeared to have all of their teeth, though my bet is most had not had teeth straightening treatments as children, and those teeth were white. Not one of the men I met had any sort of tire or gut or extra weight hanging around the midriff. We did meet one overweight Amish woman. One. And we met hundreds.

The English were not as appealing to behold as the Amish. The vast majority were overweight in the extreme. Loaded with tatoo's, smoking, chewing tobacco, missing teeth, unkept... the differences were quite striking. In short, the English looked terrible.

The Amish farms were well kept, tidy, and productive. The homes of the English? More than half looked like the stereotypical country mobile home with junk deposited about the structure. The Amish do not appear to favor "yards", as crops grew right up to the eves of the house and surrounded the barns. No doubt that the Amish's large families are instrumental in keeping their homesteads in such pristine condition, but one could not help but see that many of the English living in the area have has lost their way... and I couldn't help but wonder how much the hours spent watching T.V. or in other media took away from their potential as stewards of their (the English) properties.

My bet is the Amish are not big on Prozac, either.

I made some contacts with local Amish farmers, a green house operator, leather worker, and General Store. I bought a Swiss/Gurnsey cross milk cow (I now have 3 milk cows...) 10 Black Jersey Giant hens, assorted roosters (to introduce new genetics into my flock), 2 dairy billy goats (also for genetics) and several flats of garden vegetables.

I ordered a hand planter for corn and beens. For an acre or 2 (or 3), these can work reasonably well.

My homestead is really coming along. I will have some pictures up shortly, if the tornados don't land here today.

14 comments:

Stephen B. said...

That the Oil Age is coming to a close may be passe to discuss amongst folks such as here at this blog, I'm getting some "ordinary" folks asking me about it from time to time. I just posted a link to Kunstler's latest Monday blog on my Facebook page. Old news? Sure, but some are just asking about it now.

Stephen B. said...

There are two Amish settlements not so far from my Maine farm and what you observe about the dichotomy between the English and Amish has some truth to it, though perhaps the Aroostook County "English" don't quite sound as far "gone" as your Kentucky/Tennessee English I think. Actually, Aroostook County English are a fairly well kept bunch themselves, though obesity is a bit of a problem, especially in the town centers. Anyhow, that "The County" is fairly poor reflects mainly the fact that their industries - large scale potato/grain farming and forest products - haven't done as well as the Ipod-computer makers/insurance/banking/government monster to their south known as Boston/NYC complex has.

Longer term, sturdy folk such as folks like the Amish or Aroostook County regulars I think will do at least as well as the McMansion/SUV crowd down in Boston working in all their indirect, abstract, cubicle jobs in the Rt 128 office parks will.

Some towns in The County were doing particularly bad as agriculture and forest product markets languished. There is one town in southern Aroostook, Smyrna, that was just about lost. The mills had closed, the farms were running down, and the town in general was going nowhere good. Then about 17 years ago the Amish started their first Maine Settlement here. Now there are several dozen families there. There is a really good general store (along the road I travel back and forth to home), a major metal roofing dealer, some farms, a bike shop, a nursery, a few shed and outbuilding makers, and probably several other businesses unknown to me at the moment. (My new property is two towns away.)

As you say, they're all fit and trim. They're somewhat quiet and reserved, even in the store, but so amazingly respectful. The kids on their bikes wave to me as I drive by, and I'm not even from the area, never mind that I'm not Amish.

No, the example of the Amish show just how far the rest of we in the US have fallen in terms of personal responsibility, the way we keep ourselves, keep our houses, our businesses - the way we lead our lives.

There's an ongoing blog written by a guy with lots of Amish ties that is very educational, for those wanting to know more: http://amishamerica.com/

Stephen B. said...

So I have to ask, with 3 milk cows, at least 1 sow with piglets and a large garden, that's more than the Jeffers family can use I'd imagine. I take it you've been developing some markets or other users (bartering, etc.) of your fine farm products I take it?

I'm curious to hear more if some time you'd care to work that into the discussion.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Neither of the 2 previous milk cows are in milk at the moment! I want to make sure that 1 is always in milk....

I have 4 sows now, 3 are recently bred and 1 just had piglets early in March... perhaps she will take in a month or 2.

All of our milk will to our family (we go thru 1 to 1.5 gallons per day with 3 kids) or to the piglets. We also give some away when we have too much. The milk, when mixed with corn and hay helps the piglets grow fast. I also have 12 acres of pasture that needs to get eaten... and living in the South the grass grows for 8 months per year.

I plan to sell the piglets and the steers but keep all the heifers (for now). We also have 2 miniature cows, but they are not broke to milk (nor have they calved, so they don't have milk in any event).

PioneerPreppy said...

Damn Greg you're making progress by leaps and bounds. I barely got my garden tore up for the first tilling this weekend.

Oh ya I did find out there are different lengths and two different PTO types. The standard and an 1150 I believe.

Well back to work..

Anonymous said...

Some time ago, I took a drive to an area of our state, which I remember from 40 years ago. Back then it was a beautiful area with working farms that were well kept. Not now! What a sad state of affairs. Run down, junk everywhere, abandoned vehicles all over the place, buildings falling down; animal pens a muddy boggy mess. And the animals. Just as run down looking as the buildings. The people seemed just like you mentioned, the English that is. In just 40 short years this! Then you drive down a short distance and McMansions!

The natural beauty is still there, mountains, forest, streams and rivers. It’s just the humans who have made things a mess. If there was just some way to remove all the blight …

Ken

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Pioneer:

I have stalked your blog and have been lifting all manner of ideas. I thank you!

My bees will be here (2 hives) on May 10.

The farm now has 1 Dexter Bull (small breed cattle) 5 cows, 2 horses, 17 goats, 4 breeding sows and a boar, several slaughter hogs, 50 chickens, 100 chicks, and 5 rabbits. Each animal type has its own containment area, with the cows and goats sharing the back pastures and the horses up front.

The garden is 1/2 acre affair with another 1.5 acres for corn, beans, and pumpkins. Raised beds and climbing melons and cucumbers keep the productivity per sqft high.

I am not as organized as the Amish farms, but I will be shortly.

PioneerPreppy said...

Greg

Ideas seem to be about all I can get done these days. My place was in such sad shape being neglected for so many years I am beginning to think I will never get it all cleaned.

Now I need to make space for the soon to be wife to move in with her pets... It never ends. Someday I will be able to graduate to actual livestock like you have.

Good to hear about the bees I bet you will love them. I am hoping to get a hive split started this week with some luck and cooperating weather.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Pioneer:

"Soon to be wife"? Mazul Tov!

Perhaps your wife will be interested in livestock.

Anonymous said...

Pioneer,

Congrats!

Also, thanks for the info on the PTO. Last thing I need is to spend a grand or so on equipment that won’t work.

Best,
Dan

Dextred1 said...

PP,

Congrats

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Ken:

To get rid of that blight simply get rid of Disability, Food Stamps, SNAP, etc...

The folks living there will be FORCED by enlightened self-interest to work their properties to their fullest.

PioneerPreppy said...

Thanks guys

Ya I am getting married very soon after being a total bachelor for over 10 years. We have actually been seeing each other for years but had both decided it was better to wait until my son was at least 16 before joining our households together and we thought it best not to do the whole living together before marriage thing.

She is very much into plants and stray animals, not so much livestock that become food. Except sheep she refuses to go near the lambs or get attached because she likes lamb so much. If she does happen to get near them she calls them crockpot or chop or something :)

Don said...

Can I recommend this;http://www.amazon.com/New-Complete-Book-Self-Sufficiency-Realists/dp/0751364428/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1302093461&sr=8-10
as the best source I've found for the kind of practical info you may need.