A Moral: Going to Work in Tall Buildings (j. hartford)


Someday my baby, when I am a man,
and others have taught me
the best that they can
they’ll sell me a suit
they’ll cut off my hair
and send me to work in tall buildings

So it’s goodbye to the sunshine
goodbye to the dew
goodbye to the flowers
and goodbye to you
I’m off to the subway
I must not be late
I’m going to work in tall buildings

When I’m retired
My life is my own
I made all the payments
it’s time to go home
and wonder what happened
betwixt and between
when I went to work in tall buildings

So it’s goodbye to the sunshine
goodbye to the dew
goodbye to the flowers
and goodbye to you
I’m off to the subway
I must not be late
I’m going to work in tall buildings


“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”   Thoreau


Beautiful Henhouse 50/50

The red hen’s nest is only an indentation, a mere dimple in hay, but it’s enough. She attends to her eggs there, clucks her clucks; she stirs a little, naps a little, she peeks from one slitted eye. Plus, should she allow it, you might even add your hand. But pray be mindful about that hand. For while the red hen may allow it, she may just as well disallow it. Which is to say yours could be a warm egg to lessen the cold by, or an in-your-face hissy w/ egg-splatter across your shoe. It’s a risk, pure 50/50. It’s not Wall Street. But my god, friend, how much more beautiful and meaningful it is.

With Thoreau in the Air in Front of Me

BlueRidgeParkwayHumpbackRocksLoop108537Here is a post about a few ideas I’ve keep close at hand for the last twenty-five years. They are Henry Thoreau’s ideas. I first discovered them when I was living in Virginia in a tiny house off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was just out of college in those days, I was somewhat happy, and mostly what I did was read. I had discovered ideas. The big ones. Like Living and Dying and God and History and Capitalism.  Every day I went after these ideas. I was convinced that I could eventually read myself to the end of them, which would be the same as starting over. And it was going to happen. I was going to herd all the principle ideas into one big room, listen, and squirrel away all I learned. Then I would get on with things. I would go forth.

Continue reading

Once last summer when days were warm and girls wore flowers in their hair.

q at wall

Or that crazy little thing called love.

Living With Seeds


1.  I’ve got every seed I own on the dining room table just now and some on the floor, too. All this season’s seed. Every year about this time I gather it up, new and old, and make a review. I open a few packets and look inside, I reach in my finger and poke around. Is it possible that these seeds will actually grow?  And who do I call if they don’t?

2.  I grew up surrounded by seeds. My father planted them by the hundreds of thousands. Mostly corn, some alfalfa. His tractors first pulled a one-row planter, then a two-row planter, then a four, then a six. If he were alive today, his tractor would pull the only planter that big farmers keep these days–the biggest.

3.  If I were to guess, I would say that the total number of the world’s people who plant seeds this season will be less than the number who do not.  If only the United States and European countries were polled, the spread between planters and non-planters would be enormous.  The reasons for this are many, but the seemingly universal instinct to shun physical labor is surely the root cause (i.e. better the pox than dirty hands). Continue reading

It is a fact


“Burn down your cities but leave our farms and your cities will spring up again as if by magic.  But destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

W. J. Bryan  1896

photo: joseph rossbach


Maybe You Know But Don’t Care

Maybe you don’t know where your meat comes from. Maybe you know but don’t care. Maybe you’ve never thought about it. Maybe you like convenience. Maybe you like saving $2.54 at the WalmartSuperStore. Maybe you think it’s all about elitism. Maybe you think animals were God-given to us to do with as we please. Maybe you think all the ugly stuff they put in the factory feed actually Continue reading

Once When She Was Seven

natasha newton

What day is it?
It’s today, squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day, said Pooh.


I was outside just now bringing in the evening’s firewood. When I came into the kitchen, I noticed our wicker chair had been moved to one of the windows that overlooks the farm. But I couldn’t see anyone in the chair. Continue reading

Snow Bread


When it snows a genuine New Hampshire snow like it did this past week, a storm that whips in across the north side of Saddleback Mountain to isolate our farm even more than it always is, someone in our household bakes bread.

Snow always seems to bring out the best bread. Maybe it’s the way I track snow through the house when bringing in a storm day’s extra firewood. Maybe it’s the wind that follows at my heels. Or maybe it’s some combination of the two that settles into the kitchen and rallies the yeast. Something happens. Because kneaded, proofed, and baked a full thirty minutes—every time—the bread we turn out onto the cooling rack is always better bread. Snow bread, we call it, it having long ago earned the right to its own name. Continue reading

The Biggest Best Day of Our Lives


My daughter and I spent a day on Massachusetts’ Plum Island earlier this week, and as the photo makes evident, the day was a good one: Temperatures in the mid-60s, few people (but many birds), a picnic lunch, and driftwood. Lots of driftwood. So, gathering some in, I tried building with it. What I ended up with initially was a complex, heaped-up hut. But knowing (even as I built) that complexity disagrees with everything I believe in, I pulled it all down to its beginning point.

Interestingly, that’s when my efforts caught Quetzal’s attention. “What’s that?” she asked.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “What do you think it is?”

“I think it’s an opening,” she said.

“Yes,” I said: “An opening. To land, sky, and ocean, to beginning and ending, to living and dying, to dreaming, creating…and to you when you’re old like me and me when I’m young again like you…” Continue reading