Think outside of the box


I have read quite a few books on homesteading and farming. While I have enjoyed reading, listening and meeting Joel Salatin, my favorite author and role model is Gene Logsdon.

Salatin is a prolific writer and excellent public speaker. From his appearances in Food Inc., a movie about the industrial agriculture and food supply chain system, to his recent Deerfield, Ohio, lecture I attended earlier this year, he preaches the gospel about sustainability and food security that underscores most homesteaders today. While he is extremely popular today, amongst the tsunami of beginning homesteaders, his message hasn’t always been well received.

His whole life, Salatin has gone against the grain, choosing to raise his livestock on grass, something that is natural to a cow, but unnatural to the quick growing, low overhead and cheap protein that adorns most grocery stores, restaurants and home kitchens.

While Salatin and his farm Polyface have become a household name to most, Gene Logsdon, to me, is the grandfather of the homesteading movement. His books are cherished in my house, having duplicate copies scattered around my library, which really constitutes any flat surface on or around a place I may be sitting.

I’ve read over a dozen of his books and haven’t come close to reading them all. He was a prolific writer and agrarian, publishing hundreds of articles. Growing up on a farm in Ohio, he went to college and began writing, all while constantly returning to his roots of farming, wherever he lived. He told stories and shared his breadth of knowledge.

Without his work, my pursuit would be futile, to say the least. I have reread some books and continue to reference his writing in an attempt to understand what I’m doing, but mostly to figure out what I’m doing wrong. What Salatin is to the agricultural community on a large scale, Logsdon is to the small-scale diversified farm and homestead.

In one of his books, he described how his grandfather sat on a rocking chair atop a horse-drawn harrow — a comfort and luxury unbeknownst to any, while adding extra weight.

This out-of-the-box thinking is what constitutes a contrarian. Ultimately, it constitutes my life. I cannot help the way that I think. My father would get angry when he saw me tackling a project, even as an adult. He would often cite a tool and its function when explaining how something should be done.

While reaching for a crescent wrench to hammer a nail, I would explain to him: Just because a hammer is the most efficient tool and purposely designed to do the job, it doesn’t mean that it is the only tool that can accomplish the job. Humans have engineered the tool as a solution, but the problem existed long before the tool did, and the problem needs to be resolved with or without the right tool.

A long time ago, when we first got married, my wife wanted the perfect Christmas tree. As we strolled through the aisles, she found the Clark Griswold of all the artificial trees on display.

Even after purchasing it, she was unconvinced that it would fit in the trunk of our subcompact car. To prove her point, she even assisted me by opening the hatchback and attempting to force the box into the trunk. It didn’t work — not until I opened the box, removed the contents and carefully placed all the pieces inside of the trunk, folded the box and closed the hatch.

That’s how you think outside of the box.


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