1. of or relating to fields or lands or their tenure.
2. a. of, relating to, or characteristic of farmers or their way of life.
b. organized or designed to promote agricultural interests.
So when I use the word "agrarian" I am referring to anything related to the world of agriculture, farming and the everyday life of the yeoman farmer. Whatever has to do with the cultivation of plants, crops, the care of livestock, or the daily work and routine of the farmer is what I mean by "things agrarian".
But we live in the "industrial age". (Some would even say that we no longer live in the industrial age but in the technology/service age.) So why concern ourselves with things agrarian? Aren't things agrarian just for people that lived 150 years ago or people that live in third world countries that are trying to eek out a living by scratching around in the dirt? Well, that is probably how most people think about things agrarian but maybe there is a little more to it than that. When I think about agrarian my mind goes back to the very first agrarians that walked this earth; Adam and his wife Eve. We find the account in the Bible in Genesis 2:8 "Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed" and vs. 15 "The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work (cultivate) it and take care of it". Now I am not a Hebrew scholar and can't actually prove this point lingquistically but it seems to me that what this is saying is that Adam and Eve were given a mandate by God to care for the day- to- day needs of the garden and see to the long term well being, productivity and fertility of the garden he entrusted into their care. I find it extremely interesting that when God wanted to provide a wonderful place to live and raise a family for his newly formed image-bearers (1:26) He chose a garden/farm (there were animals in the garden as well as plants) and when he wanted something interesting, enjoyable and purposeful for them to do He told them to cultivate and care for the garden/farm He had created just for them.
Another good reason to be involved in things agrarian is that it serves as a daily reminder of where we came from and where we are going. Gen 3:19 says, "by the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust (dirt) you are and to dust (dirt) you will return." It's good to remember and reflect upon our humble beginning and our soon coming end..
In the last blog I told about the beginning of the barn project; the foundation. Now after the foundation we're ready for some wood, actually a lot of wood. But instead of heading to the local lumberyard, #1 son (I call him "the big dawg") and I head to the woods. This is going to be a LOT of work but I'm not in a big hurry and it will be about 75% cheaper than buying the lumber at a lumberyard. After contacting a friend who is willing to part with a few trees we are ready to start sawing. The "big dawg" (#1 son) has a big saw and he's going to need it for these trees. These poplars are anywhere from 24" to 32" in diameter at the base. He drops about 6 of these trees, limbs them out and then bucks them into usable 10 and 12 foot lengths. The following Saturday I hire a local Amishman who owns a portable sawmill and we saw wood all day. Actually we saw wood for about three days, not consecutive days but spread out through the early winter months of 2013. Sawing the wood is relatively easy. Handling, hauling and stacking it after it is cut is where the real work is. I think I've handled every single board in the barn at least four times, maybe more! More pictures of progress in the following blogs!!
Quite a few years ago I either purchased or was given (can't remember) the book "An Age of Barns" by Eric Sloane. This book became my regular bathroom time reading material. It is filled with wonderful hand-drawn sketches of old barns, outbuildings and agrarian scenes. It is both instructional and inspirational and gives a wonderful feel and flavor of agrarian culture in the 1700's and 1800's. Rarely is the introduction of a book my favorite part of the book, but here it is. In the latter part of the introduction Mr. Sloane tells of purchasing an old farm. himself. Referring to his old barn he says, "One night when I was wondering what the original builder might have been doing at the same hour two centuries ago, I chose to think he most likely would have been putting his stock to bed. So, trying to recapture something of the past, I walk toward the old barn. Feeling like a ghost contemplating the business of haunting - there was indeed a powerful sense of another time - I breathed in the winter freshness of the night and felt that I was reliving some certain moment. I could smell the musty tang of hay and manure, and it was easy to imagine a restlessness of farm animals within the barn. I pushed open the half-collapsed door and stepped into the blackness. At once I seemed to have an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and safeness: there was a welcome softness of hay underfoot, and although they could not be seen, the surrounding walls and the oversize beams made themselves felt, almost like something alive there in the darkness. The incense of seasoned wood and the perfume of dry hay mingled to create that distinctive fragrance which only an ancient barn possesses."
While Eric Sloane entered his old barn to remember what once was, I enter mine in much the same way at night, except not to look back but to look forward to what will someday be. I am looking forward to walking down to my barn on a moon-lit winter night, quietly undoing the latch and stepping into the inner darkness and tranquility to check on the well-being of the beasts within. The cow bell, that once belonged to my grandfather, now hangs around the neck of the fatted steer and softly gongs as he turns his head to acknowledge my entrance to the barn. The sheep munch contentedly on their hay and the hogs, who have burrowed deep into the clean straw for warmth, stir from their slumber thinking it is time for another feast. These, and a myriad of other delightful sights, sounds and smells of the barn, garden, meadow and woodlot are what await me and others who choose to live with things agrarian.
Stay warm my friends,