A Sustainable Farm that Isn’t

The hard, heart breaking reality that sustainable farming is not as sustainable as we once thought it was.

My heart ached as I stood at the edge of a field on another farm and looked at what had once been Salatin style pull pens, used for raising pasture-raised chickens. The pens laid smashed together on a pile in the woods. That style of chicken pen is named after the man who promoted the design and method. The pens at one time had been two feet high and 10 feet wide by 12 feet long. The pens are called pull pens because they are pulled across the pasture by moving them one pen length a day. It is a very labor intensive system. Almost every farm here in America that starts raising chickens on pasture uses this method. The method is romanticized and made appealing to new farmers.

A pile of smashed Salatin style chicken pens
A pile of smashed Salatin style chicken pens that had at one time been used for raising chickens on pasture. It represents the smashed dreams of two sustainable farmers, and the unsustainability of what is supposed to be sustainable agriculture.

The pasture where the             pasture-raised chickens had been raised
Turning around from where the above picture was taken, this is the view of what had once been the pasture where the pasture-raised chickens had been raised. The farm was located in Maryland State Park property. After the sustainable farm failed, the land (about 50 acres) has become a wasteland filled with noxious weeds, thorns, and poison ivy. About four years ago the Maryland Forest Service planted it in trees to reforest the land, never to be farmed sustainably again. The last crop that a farm grows is trees. (We have not yet been able to prove to the world that sustainable farming is the answer to feeding the world and that we are more sustainable than big corporate agriculture. We have more work to do.)

The farm, Full Circle Farm here in Maryland, went out of business over 10 years ago. The pile of chicken pens represents not only the labor of the farmers and their wasted funds, but it also represents the smashed dreams and hopes of a man and a woman who had been told that the system that they were using was the answer to conventional confinement agriculture. They thought they were practicing sustainable agriculture that would last and endure long after the conventional, confinement, big corporation chicken houses had gone out of business for being unsustainable.

Little did they know, as beginning farmers, that the method that they were using was not sustainable and that few people who would try it would be able to make a living wage with it. Most of them would quit after a few years.

I am writing this in hope that the many farmers and want to be farmers who subscribe to this newsletter do not make the same mistakes that I made and that Full Circle Farm made. I used to think that it was me that was having the problems and that others were being successful. I kept hearing glowing reports about how great everything was on other farms. But as I have observed things over the years, and from reading articles in Stockman Grass Farmer Magazine, I have pieced together that the profits were not there that those giving the glowing reports made it sound like it was. From my perspective, the reason that many sustainable pasture based chicken farms are no longer in business is not the farmer’s fault, but the fault of the system that they used. If you are experiencing some of these failures, it is not you, it is the system you are using. Chickens will not be super healthy just because they stand, sit, and sleep on the cold wet ground with grass on it 24/7. If we are going to have sustainable pasture based farms and last long after the conventional, confinement chicken houses have gone out of business, we need follow a different method.

There are a number of reasons why pull pens are not a sustainable method of raising chickens on pasture.

  • It requires too much labor for the few number of chickens that the farmer is raising to make a living wage. The pens have to be moved once or twice a day or the chickens will sit in their own filth. If you have 20 inexperienced apprentices running around your farm working basically for free, building and pulling pens is good grunt work to keep them busy.
  • The chickens are not protected enough from the heat, the cold, the rain and wet ground, and from predators. I will not go into details, but it is not a humane method. The death loss is too high. Every chicken that dies represents a loss of profit. The overhead costs and feed invested in the dead chickens are still there.
  • Because of the high labor input, it is difficult to have enough time in a week to raise, process, and market enough birds to be able to make a full time income. In other words, the hourly wage is below minimum wage. That is why most farms using the pull pen method stay part time or shut down. It is not profitable. They have to have off farm income to live on. For a sustainable farm to be sustainable, the labor input has to be low enough for the number of birds raised, to be able to raise enough chickens with a normal day’s work to make a living. Those that have promoted this method of pasture based farming have made it sound like the animals do most of the work. That is not true.
  • Pull pens are a micro version of confinement chicken rearing, only it’s on pasture. The chickens have very little space to move in their small pen.

Likely, unbeknown to the farmers at Full Circle Farm, there was another significant factor that may have contributed to them not being able to sell enough chickens to make a go of farming and be sustainable. The farmer who had taught them the method of raising chickens on pasture had a big name recognition and was illegally delivering chickens that were not USDA inspected across state lines into Maryland to customers relatively close to Full Circle Farm. At that time period in Maryland, Full Circle Farm could only sell their chickens at their farm because their chickens were processed under Federal exemption and were not USDA inspected. People had to go to their farm; the chickens could not be delivered to drop points like the other farmer was illegally doing. It is one thing for a farm to compete with a legal competitor, but it would have been very difficult for them to compete with a competitor with name recognition that was doing things illegally to provide what the customers wanted and taking business away from them.

The black market of illegal pasture raised chickens coming from Pennsylvania and Virginia into Maryland and Washington DC continues. If you are a farmer that is doing this, please stop. If you are buying this black market chicken, please stop. If the illegal chicken and illegal raw milk does not stop coming across state lines, it will endanger the sustainability of all pasture based farms.

For sustainable agriculture to be sustainable, the farmers have to stay in business. As sustainable farmers, we need to look out for each other and help each other and not take business from other sustainable farms by doing things illegally or misrepresenting our products as something that they are not. If you are a consumer, do not hurt the sustainability of the sustainable farms in your area by supporting the big guys (or the little guys) who are doing things illegally or are misrepresenting their products. One of the most common misrepresentations is a farm giving customers the impression that their chickens and eggs are organic when they are actually not feeding their chickens organically and are feeding non-organic feed. Non-organic feed is much cheaper than organic feed. Contrary to what you might think, a pastured chicken actually eats more feed than a confinement raised bird because they get more exercise and because they need to keep themselves warm during cool weather and on cold nights. It is important that the feed is organic.

Sustainable agriculture is a team effort of farmers and consumers. If we do not make sustainable agriculture sustainable, big business, confinement, “pasture raised” animal operations will be what is sustainable.

Related articles from past newsletters on this subject:
Sustainable Farming – The Farmer Has to Stay in Business
Our Quest for a Better and More Humane Way to Raise Chickens on Pasture
Our Quest for a Better and More Humane Way to Produce Eggs on Pasture

For those who are farmers
Here in the United States, much of the information that we have been given about raising chickens on pasture is outdated by 20 years or more. There have been a lot of advancements in the last 20 years that we as small growers have not kept up with. Europe with their free-range chickens, and the larger poultry breeders have a lot of beneficial information for us to learn from. Raising chickens on pasture is a lot more high tech in meeting their nutritional and other needs than we have been led to believe. Small mistakes in nutrition and management can end up costing a farmer a lot of money and may mean the difference between making a living and going broke. Here are some valuable resources that have been beneficial to us:
The following three books available from 5M Books – http://www.5mbooks.com/agricultural-books/poultry-books/poultry-signals-training.html
Poultry Signals
Broiler Signals
Laying Hens

Online Resources:
Ross 308 Broiler Handbook
ISA Brown Egg Layer Alternative Management Guide
ISA Brown Nutrition Management Guide
Hy-Line Brown Egg Layer Red Book – A Management Guide

Grass Fed is Best? A Horror Story From our Living Lab

To hear some people talk, you might get the impression that raising chickens and animals on grass is the secret ticket to success in farming and to health. With grassfed, there will be no more problems and the chickens and animals will excel far beyond conventional farming methods. Any grass is good. All you have to do is get the animals out on the grass, in the sunshine and fresh air.

That is not true.

Before you think I fell off my rocker, I will state that I believe that grass fed is BEST! But, as you will see, not all grass is best or even able to properly sustain life.

I was shocked and very disappointed with the large amount of weight loss that our sheep experienced after only 16 days in the new silvopasture. Two specialists from the Maryland Extension service, had visited the silvopasture just before the sheep were put into the new pasture. They were very impressed with what they called the “high dairy quality” of the grasses and clovers. They were concerned that the forage would be too lush, too rich for the sheep and that they might bloat (their stomachs fill up with gas) . On the contrary, the sheep did not bloat and we were in for a big surprise when we weighed the sheep.
The 54 Adult Sheep : lost (-345.5 lbs.) total in the 16 days between May 14 & 30, 2015. This number included rams (males), ewes (females) with lambs, and year old females that were not bred. Many of the nursing mothers lost 10 to 15 lbs!

The 48 Lambs: gained significantly less than they did the 16 days before they were turned into the Silvopasture:

Gain between 4/28/15 & 5/14/15 (16 days) = 465.5 lbs. an average of .61 lbs of gain per day before being in the silvopasture.
Gain between 5/14/15 & 5/30/15 (16 days) = 209.1 lbs. an average of .27 lbs of gain per day
Weight gain difference = -256.4 lbs.

While these weight losses were very disappointing, they showed how dramatically different pastures can be. Grass fed will not produce healthy animals and poultry if the soil is not built up properly. The main part of our farm, where the lambs gained the most, probably had the same quality of grass as the silvopasture eight years ago when we first moved here. We applied some principles that we learned from Carey Reams and some that we had developed on our own from some of his teachings and it made a dramatic improvement in the pastures. The main concept is that at least 80% of a plant’s nutritional food/energy comes from the air. By building up the soil and foliar feeding the plants with milk and honey, we were able to increase the amount that the plants were able to take out of the air. One of the main things that we did was to repeatedly mow our pastures and let the grass lay on the ground. We have explained this in some of our other articles.

I also need to add that there were also a few other things that likely contributed to the weight loss – over maturity of some of the grasses and grazing too long for the quality of the forage.

What was significant was that on the main part of our farm, the pasture alone, with no grain feeding, produced a weight gain of .61 pounds per day in the 16 days before the lambs went onto the silvopasture. That is exceptional for grassfed only and comparable to grain feeding.

Mike Neary, Ph.D., Extension Sheep Specialist at Purdue University says this about lambs in the 45 – 80 lb range, which was the size of most of the lambs that we put on the silvopasture: “Lambs with high to moderate growth potential that are fed a grain based diet with proper amounts of protein should gain from .5 to .8 pounds per day…
“If lambs are grown on high levels of forage [pasture], then one can expect slower gains than if fed diets with a high amount of grain. Gains for lambs grown on pasture will normally be from .25 to .5 pounds per day.” http://ag.ansc.purdue.edu/sheep/articles/feedlamb.html

During the 16 days in the silvopasture, the lambs averaged .27 lbs of gain per day which is at the bottom end of what Neary said is the expected gain for lambs on pasture. However, the results were actually worse than that. During the time that the sheep were in the Silvopasture, it appears that from the amount of weight that the lactating ewes lost, they gave the fat off their backs to their lambs and that is why the lambs gained and did not lose weight like their mothers.

Last week we weighed a few of the ewes and lambs when we were sorting out the lambs to take to the butcher. We were encouraged that they were gaining weight again. Those lambs had gained about .67 lbs a day in nine days. We do not have the data yet for all the lambs.

The lesson in all of this is that all pastures are not the same and will not give the same health qualities to the eggs, meat and milk that they produce. The same is true of fruits and vegetables in the store. They may look beautiful, but be lacking in the nutrition to adequately sustain life.

Sheep grazing what appeared to be very lush forage in the silvopasture demonstration plot.
Sheep grazing what appeared to be very lush forage in the silvopasture demonstration plot.

The soil in the 8 acres in the silvopasture is about as chemical free as it will get. It has been probably at least 20 years since it had any chemicals or chemical fertilizers put on it. It also had not had any animals on it or any farming activity for at least 10 years before the silvopasture was established; therefore, it did not have the immediate negative affects of chemicals or bad farming practices. The forage specialists had recommended the grasses and legumes to plant to reduce the amount of tall fescue grass that was in the pasture. Tall fescue has a toxin in it that negatively affects sheep and cattle. Those grasses and legumes had been planted and looked beautiful as you can see in the picture.

In spite of the problems, I am looking forward to what we will be able to accomplish in the silvopasture. I feel that we have a solution, by repeatedly mowing the silvopasture to build up the soil. We also will be spraying milk, honey, and egg as a foliar spray to increase the photosynthesis and brix (sugar) of the pasture grasses and legumes. In the next three years, I believe that we will see a very significant improvement in the pasture growth and nutrition in the silvopasture, and a significant growth increase in the trees over the trees planted in the adjacent fields.

For me, the silvopasture gave me a reference point that showed that we had indeed improved our pastures from when we first moved to this farm.

Meet Your Farmers

Each of the next number of months we will tell you a little bit about two members of our family and their role on the farm, their interests, and the talents that they contribute. This month we will introduce the two people that you will likely meet when you come to the farm to pick up chickens or if you call on the phone.


Cathy grew up near Hutchinson, Kansas. Her father was a dwarf and passed away from skin cancer when she was 20. She also had a severely mentally handicapped brother and sister who have also passed away. The challenges of helping care for her handicapped brother, developed character and strength in her.

We met in Bible college while we were singing on the college chorale on a 12,000 mile tour through the US and Canada. Cathy is a talented musician and can sing soprano, alto, and tenor. Her favorite instrument is the piano/keyboard, but she can also play the guitar, accordion, and autoharp.

Cathy with her beloved cookbooks.

It is said that an army marches on its stomach (its food). In the same way on our farm, we do our farm work on our stomachs. Good nutrition is important to Cathy and she keeps us well fed with a wide variety of foods and ways of preparing them. She likes to garden, not for gardening’s sake, but to produce the most nutritious food for her family that she can. Cathy cooks almost exclusively from scratch using whole foods from our garden and farm, with only a small part being purchased. Bread, cookies, and other baked goods are made from whole wheat that she freshly grinds into flour just before making the item. Cathy and the girls can or freeze over 1,000 quarts of fruits and vegetables each summer.

If you have a question about how to prepare chicken, turkey or lamb, she is the one to ask. She loves to talk about cooking and also loves to hear about good ways of preparing and seasoning food that you have found. She loves it when people stop by between chicken processing dates to purchase products and chat. Cathy also has a strong interest in heath and how to help people to be healthy.


Kara is our oldest daughter and is 20 years old. She works full time on the farm as cook and gardener. She also helps with chicken processing, and processing eggs. Kara enjoys gardening and is in charge of our greenhouse where she raises plants for our gardens and flower beds.

Kara, like her mom, is a good cook. The guys say that they can’t tell a difference between her cooking and her mom’s. So if you have cooking questions, she can probably answer them too.

She enjoys singing and can sing soprano and alto. Kara also plays the flute.

Kara also has an interest in health and herbal healing. This past winter she completed a herbal healing course from Dr. John Christopher’s School of Natural Healing and is certified as a Family Herbalist. Kara is the one who makes the Everyday Miracles Salve that has been so helpful to us.

Farm Red Cross

When you are up to your eyeballs in work is often when disaster strikes. We were in the middle of processing dog food when we received a call from Phil Freeman at House in the Woods Farm, about three miles from us. The wind had ripped the plastic off of their greenhouse, and he wondered if we could help him put new plastic on. From one end of the 100′ greenhouse to the other were rows of flats of very young seedlings. These seedlings represented most of the income for their farm for the entire year. We went over that evening and helped Phil remove the rest of the old plastic and get ready to put the new plastic on. But it was too windy to put the plastic on the 28’x100′ greenhouse, but fortunately it was warm. The next morning the wind had died down some so we went over and worked in the rain and got the greenhouse covered. The plants were saved! In this picture you can see all the human “paper weights” keeping the plastic from blowing off again before it could be fastened down.

We were all very happy when the plastic was on. And you know, even with the emergency, we were able to get all our work done at home. The dog food even got packaged quicker than normal!

Nathan’s Fiddle

Enough of the bad news and health care stuff. Now for something that you only hear about happening in years gone by, to someone you never knew, and maybe only a story that never really happened. This time it is a true story that happened a week and a half ago to our son Nathan. Nathan had been thinking that he should get another fiddle that had a better sound to it.

He went to an auction at the fairgrounds in Frederick and bought this old fiddle. The case is old and dilapidated. The bow did not have any hair on it and the fiddle did not have all of its strings. I (Myron) looked at it and did not think it was worth much. The auctioneer didn’t see much value in it either. Nathan started the bid at $10 and bought it for $40.

This is a picture of the old fiddle.  There is no date inside the fiddle. There is a paper glued inside, hand written in French stating that it was reconstructed by Arthur Vernier, a violin maker – luthier. In researching on the internet and examining the fiddle, we found some interesting things.

A new neck had been added and the old scroll peg box was grafted onto the new neck. In this picture you can see a small diagonal line on the top edge of the left side of the violin where the neck is grafted into the scroll peg box.

In this picture you can see the splice where the new neck was grafted in. The significance of that graft is that it dates the fiddle as most likely being pre-1760, before the US became a nation! In the Baroque period before 1760, the neck of a violin was shorter and the angle of the peg box was different than on violins after the Baroque period. This fiddle was reconstructed with a longer neck.

Both the top and the bottom of the fiddle are domed up higher, and at a steeper angle from the edges than on a modern violin, giving the body of the fiddle more volume. It has a beautiful sound.

The old fiddle looked like it was of little value to the auctioneer and to the crowd of about 200 people that day. It was God’s blessing to Nathan and an object lesson that, just like the old violin a person’s value is more than what their appearance may indicate. It reminded me of the poem and song, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”. Check out this reciting of the poem. I think you will enjoy it: http://rosemck1.tripod.com/touch-of-the-masters-hand.html

Trying to Stay Healthy Wrapped in Plastic and Living in a Sealed Insulated Box, Starving Ourselves From a Food We Can’t See

Note: I have learned much about all areas of life from things here on the farm the last five or six years. Things that I probably would never have learned if we did not have a pasture based farm. This article shares some things that I have observed, learned, and that have been rolling around in my mind.

In spite of the technological advancements in modern medicine and a renewed focus on eating organic and eating healthy, Americans are still having a serious problem with major illnesses – cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Health care costs keep rising, indicating a growing health problem. We are looking at all areas of our lives to see what might be contributing to these problems. To continue doing the same things that everyone else is doing but hoping for different results for ourselves, is foolish.

When we first started our pasture based farm, I tried to find all the information that I could about raising chickens on pasture. Years ago, it was common practice for chickens to be true free-range. But when the poultry industry converted to confinement raising of chickens, there was much information lost about raising chickens on pasture. I went to the Library of Congress on several occasions and researched in old books about how to raise free range chickens. One of the things that I found in an old book was that the author had observed that chickens do best in the winter if at least part of the south side of the chicken shelter is left open all winter. He stated that chickens need plenty of fresh air and that totally closing the building to keep them warm was more detrimental to their health than the cold. I decided to try it and found that he was right. For the last eight winters, except for one year, we have left the south end of the chicken shelter open day and night all winter. I have been amazed how healthy the chickens have been through the winter months. On average, we have had few chickens die during the winter. When we have young hens that have started laying in the fall months we have had flocks that have laid 80 to 90% all winter without using artificial lighting (80-90% is the number of eggs per day that are laid per 100 hens).

This was during one of the big snows this past winter. Note how the end of the hoop shelter is wide open. The small building on the right is the nest house where the hens lay the eggs.

There were several winters that I felt sorry for the hens, with the end of their shelter open all night and temperatures below freezing. I closed up most of the south end of the shelter. One year we closed up the entire south end at night. But the hens did not do as well. In trying to help them be comfortable, a number of them got sick and died. When we had the same results the second time, I realized that my compassion was misguided. But I still did not recognize the significance of what we had observed.

Earlier this year, one of the things that stood out to me in a seminar that I listened to of Carey Reams, is that for both people and animals, 80% of our food energy comes from the air and sunlight. Only 20% comes from the food we eat. He further stated that of that 80% of energy from the air, 60% is taken in through our lungs and 40% through our skin. While I have not been able to validate that claim, it has made me do some thinking and researching about how our body uses air. We don’t see the air and the nutrients for our bodies that is in it, and so it is easy for us to overlook its importance. Air is a very important part of health and life. We can live for weeks without food, but only minutes without air. Air contains not only oxygen, but also many trace mineral elements. These trace minerals are put into the air through the action of the waves breaking in the ocean. One of the things that helped bring about Dr. Jordan Rubin’s amazing recovery from Crohn’s Disease was that he went to the ocean and lived on the beaches for a number of months. His lungs and skin absorbed minerals from the ocean air and from the sunshine.

One of the things that my mother taught me when I was a boy, was to NEVER get into an empty freezer or refrigerator. She told me that if I did, I could suffocate and die. Here recently, after finding out that the nutrients in the air are more important for our health than what I had realized, I got to thinking about how similar the modern house is to a super size refrigerator in being air tight. Is the modern house a dangerous place to live? In the interest of energy efficiency, houses have been built so that air from outside doesn’t get inside the house, and the heated or cooled air from inside does get wasted by going outside the house. When a house is built, there are multiple layers that seal the air from being exchanged. Outside is the siding. Under the siding, the house is wrapped in Tyvek. Next there is a layer of sheathing, either plywood or an insulation board, both of which seal out air. When I worked in construction, the insulation company even caulked the 2×4 walls where they met the floor and anywhere there were pieces of framing nailed together, to prevent air from getting through the cracks in the stud walls. Inside the house, the walls of each room are sealed with drywall. The only place fresh air can get inside the house is through the windows and doors. Windows and doors are being engineered to seal as effectively as possible to keep air from passing through them and we are being encouraged to replace older windows and doors with these more air tight windows and doors. What is energy efficient is not necessary in our best interest health wise.

Most people today run their air conditioner all summer and the heat all winter. The windows are seldom opened. The average person spends a significant amount of time in a sealed insulated "refrigerator" box of one form or another, living and breathing their stale exhaust with its depleted oxygen and minerals. They spend part of their day in their sealed insulated-box home. They drive to work in their comfortable "sealed box" car. Then they spend eight or more hours in the sealed insulated-box office.

We breathe a huge volume of air each day. The quality of the air we breathe is important. It is an important part of our health.

But there is more about air – the air needs of our skin. Our skin is the largest organ of our body, and yet it is easy to overlook its needs. I was listening to a recording from the 1970’s of a man talking about Iridology—the study of the iris of the eye. The different spots and coloring in the iris of the eye have been found to point to trouble spots and its location in the body. He explained how they could tell when women started to wear nylon stockings and then pantyhose because they could see trouble in those areas in the eye. What really got his attention was when women started wearing wigs as part of the fashion years ago, and it too showed up in the iris of the eye. He said that underwear used to be made with polyester or other synthetic fibers and it caused vaginal infections in women. The manufacturers quietly changed the crotch in pantyhose to cotton instead of nylon. Most underwear was also changed to cotton. I had thought that the reason that almost all underwear and t-shirts were now made out of cotton was because it did not last as long and it provided job security for the clothing manufacturers. I had several polyester t-shirts that had lasted 15 or 20 years.

All this has made us do some thinking and reevaluating of what our family wears. If a woman wears a very thin nylon screen (nylons) – which would appear to breathe – on her legs, and that shows up as a problem spot in her eyes, what about all the other synthetic fibers that we wear? Many clothes have a high amount of polyester in them so that they can be taken wrinkle free from the dryer. Almost all jackets and coats have polyester in the shell, lining, and/or insulation. Many leather shoes have synthetic materials for the insole and inside lining. Many sofas and chairs are made with synthetic fabrics and foam, so when we sit down, the back part of our body is covered with plastic which blocks out air. Our beds are made of synthetic fibers or foam, and we cover ourselves all night with polyester, either in the sheets, blankets, or comforter lining. Has breast cancer has become more prevalent in part, because most bras are made with synthetic fibers that don’t breathe properly? Are we preventing our skin from receiving the nutrients from the air by wrapping our bodies in plastic?

Some of my uncles and aunts and their families are part of a very conservative Mennonite group. They live clean lives. They don’t smoke or drink. They grow a lot of their own food. Many of them live on farms and breathe lots of fresh air, but many of the older people in their group are getting cancer and other serious diseases. One of the things they do, is dress from head to toe in polyester. They make their own clothes, and polyester lasts much longer than cotton. Is the fabric of their clothes contributing to their cancer and other diseases? I don’t know, but it makes me wonder.

Seeing what plenty of fresh air has done for our chickens and realizing the importance of plenty of fresh air for our own health has made our family do a lot of evaluating of what we wear. We do not feel like we have all the answers and we feel like we are merely looking through a keyhole into the next room. We are on a quest to find all the pieces that are needed to have true health and vitality. Eating right is very important, but it is not the whole answer. We would appreciate hearing any of the puzzles pieces that you have.

A One Room, Home School, School House

We do not do everything just like everyone else does, as many of you have observed by now. That is true not only with our farming methods but other areas of our life as well. About a year ago I felt God directing us to build a small studio for each of our children where they could go to study, learn and write. True education is not merely having information memorized and doing your required time in a school building, but it is knowing where and how to get the information that you need when you need it. Young people need to learn to study and research for themselves and enjoy it, not expecting others to do the study and research for them and provide the answers. In my own research, I have found that many highly educated individuals today are not true scholars. They are merely repeating things that others have said. A verse in the Bible that stood out was: "And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children." (Isaiah 54:13)

The concept was to build six small rustic cabin type studios. Each of our children would have a mini school house of their own where they could go to for times of studying alone and to be alone with God. The bulk of their school time would still be in our school room in our farm house. The little school houses would be built on wheels so that it could easily be moved to any place on the farm. Each child has input into the design of their mini school house. We started by building two school houses for the two oldest, Joel and Nathan. We have four more to build.

As the name of our farm means: "The Lord will provide". In the weeks that followed, God provided the materials at incredibly cheap prices.

  • At an auction we bought 5200 linear feet of new rough sawed oak lumber for the incredibly cheap price of $50 which we used for the siding.
  • At another auction we bought 17 five gallon buckets of Sikkens log cabin stain for only $75.
  • We bought the metal roofing at half price.
  • The 2×4’s and other framing material we bought at Lowes as "cull" lumber for 75% off. Most of the lumber did not have anything wrong with it!
  • Our neighbor, without knowing what we were doing, dropped off enough windows for all of the school houses from a remodel job that he was doing.
  • We bought new doors at an auction for several dollars a piece.
  • The trailer axles were free. One was from the rear axle of a minivan that the children tore apart several years ago before we junked it.
  • We were given two small wood stoves for the two school houses that are finished, from a friend that we helped put up his greenhouse.

The total cost for each school house – about $200.

This is Nathan’s school house. The main part is 8’x8′ with a 4’x8′ porch. The porch will have a drop leaf desk attached to the railing for studying outdoors.

Nathan practicing fiddle in his school house. It is a great place to practice an instrument where others are not disturbed.

Joel, Kara, and Myron working on Joel’s school house. The building of the school houses is part of the children’s practical hands on training.

Joel’s school house is a little larger than Nathan’s. The main part is 8’x12′ with a 4’x8′ porch. Joel, age 21, is not going to college, but he is still learning and is studying college level human health and agriculture.

Joel is also using his mini school house as a recording and mixing studio.