Israel, Gaza, and the Homestead

The world is always crazy somewhere, but right now Israel and Gaza are in the news exemplifying it.

forage farming pigs, mangalitsa pigs, hogs, pasturedI thought about the situation as I went about my chores: picking up the eggs, checking the proscuittos and other pieces in the hanging room, grabbing a jar of grass-fed cow’s milk for the house, and seeing what the garden offered for supper. It occurred to me that these things happen: hens lay eggs, cows make milk, broccoli grows new heads, regardless of what ever we humans do out in our world.  

It’s this layer of security, this growing of what sustains life and knowing how to process, preserve, and use it, that I’m grateful for. No matter what happens in the Ukraine, Israel, or various other parts of the world, we have the knowledge and skills to have a measure of security.  We’ve been sharing that with folks, growing a bigger circle of skilled and secure people, for over 12 years now.  Over the past 12 years we’ve trained a lot of folks in the skill of butchering a hog at home without all the big equipment.  We’ve preached that anyone can farm and grow food. And our Tribe shows it. 

This is the kind of inspiration our students are to us, as they come, learn, then go out and do: 

“My husband attending a homestead hog harvest totally changed the trajectory of our lives!! He saw the beauty of hands on connection to our food.  It ignited a passion in him that he didn’t know existed. Then we attended Tribe Day. And now we are actively looking for land to build our own farm!”   Amy Bacher

Mike and Amy were city kids. Before they started the nomadic life they’d never driven a pick up or pulled a trailer, much less grown vegetables or chickens or pigs.  Now they’re inspired and doing.  How great is that?! 

So, I encourage you to make room for sadness and the emotions that go with tragedy, but to also do what Mark calls “fortifying your position.” Get skilled up before a crisis hits so you’re secure in your knowledge and skills to thrive. Come and learn with us, or someone like us.  I’m glad I did that, and I’m happy to share with those who really want it.  

And that’s what I thought about: Israel, Gaza, craziness, and farming, as I did my chores.


Get skilled up and secure! Check out how we can help you and join us for a class.

pork, charcuterie, hog harvest, Israel

Only a short time until our fall Homestead Hog Harvest and Charcuterie and Pork Preservation classes. Get signed up today!


Here’s Mark’s full thoughts on Israel, Gaza, and the Homestead:

It is personal

tribe day rabbits, farm kid
tribe day, dairy cow, milk, milk cow
personal relationship homestead hog harvest mangalitsa pig

It is personal.

This harvesting of our animals.

I was talking with a “good ‘ol farm boy” today and he was relating how one of his customers asked, “How can you do it?” Meaning, how can you kill an animal you’ve raised. “Do you name them?”

This is a huge mindset challenge for beginning farmers.  We don’t personalize carrots or zuchinni, though they are alive and consume air and respond to their environment. But a goofy turkey or personality-less broiler chicken is different.  It feels somehow more personal, even if the animal in question isn’t loved and is a royal butthead (or worse).

We do name some of our animals. Our steers have names. The sows and boar have names. The dairy cows have names. Sometimes the turkeys earn a name. Even the nameless hordes of chickens and feeder pigs get our attention, though.  It is personal. Relationships always are, and we have a relationship with every animal here on the farm.  They are here because we’ve put a mom and pop animal together to get that animal, or because we’ve paid money to have them here.  We’ve invested time and money in feeding them, watering them, sometimes doctoring them. We give our lives to provide them with the best chicken, turkey, pig, or cow life possible. It’s a personal relationship because it’s a personal investment on many levels.

We serve them for months, or up to  many years. Then they serve us. The animal fulfills it’s purpose by literally giving it’s life so we can have life, because that’s the bottom line in nourishment, whether you’re eating a carrot or a chicken.  It is personal, and it’s a give and take relationship.

Looking at it that way changes things a bit. It explains why we harvest all our animals on farm, and teach people how to do it.  It seems counter-logical that you’d invest so much in an animal just to turn around and kill it. In part that’s a symptom of our cultural disconnection from the value of the life cycle and how death plays a role in a healthy system. Always, one thing gives life to another. That’s the way things were created to work, and the farm is the most obvious place to experience it day in and day out.

“Isn’t it hard?” 

Even with all that said, yes, it is hard. Taking a life is not pleasant. Anyone who gets excited about it has issues.

We understand that it’s part of what has to happen, but no one at Baker’s Green Acres loves that part of butchering. Some people have lost sleep over having to kill an animal for butchering the next day. That’s why we work hard to make it as stress free as possible. Handing off the task isn’t stress free for the animal even if it makes it easier for us.  Sometimes, we get it, that’s the way it has to be. But we choose to honor that animal’s gift of life by keeping the process personal and being there to the end.  It also makes it essential for us to do an ethical kill, and why we teach our students how to do a stress-free kill. The animals go from one life stage to the next as quickly and painlessly as possible.  It is a personal relationship and we care for our animals to the very end.

Philosophy and responsibility of the relationship

If you come to a class you’ll discover another aspect of this personal relationship. When an animal gives it’s life for us, it’s our responsibility to honor that by using as much of that gift as possible.  We find ways to be nourished by the organs: the offal parts. We use the bones, heads, and feet: the odd parts. Even if it’s parts we can’t or choose not to eat, our other animals (dogs and pigs) or soil (via compost) can benefit from the nourishment. Nothing is wasted or “thrown out.” In this way we honor the animal and treat it’s life with respect and appreciation.

The relationship between a farmer and his or her animals is personal. That’s why we care for them up to and through the end of their life.

And that’s why we offer others the opportunity to come and learn how to be self sufficient and take care of their animals all the way through the end.

Because it is personal.

When it gets real: the homesteading experience

tribe day rabbits
homestead hog harvest, hog butchering, on farm education, homesteading
homestead hog harvest, hog butchering, on farm education, homesteading

Homesteading is about reality, right? Smells and feels. The whole experience.

This week we had helpers in the butcher shop. They were newbies, trying on homesteading to see what it’s all about while they enjoy chilling at the on-farm campground. 

Tribe day 2022, gathering,

They’d petted the new calf, pulled weeds, moved chicken tractors. Today’s activity was chicken processing.

They watched the video (see below if you wanna watch it, too). They put on their old clothes and shoes. And they showed up at the door with eager smiles, ready to do the job. 

And then things got real.  They smelled the smells (let’s be honest, “wet chicken” is not a Glade scent, is it?). They felt the feels. And when they left at the end of the day, Mt. Everest looked doable. They’d scaled a mountain they weren’t sure they’d make it up at the start of the day.

That’s what we’ve heard from all the folks after an on-farm class:

  • “I’ve watched all the videos, but it’s different when you do it.” 
  • “When I do something, I feel like I really know it.”
  • “I didn’t read that in the books, but it really works!”
  • “I have to do it and ask questions. Then I know I’ve got it.”
  • “It’s just not the same on a video.”

Yeah, we hear ya.  When you smell the smells and feel the feels, it gets real. And that’s what we all want, right?  

The real deal. To truly own the knowledge and muscle memory of it.

I guarantee that teenager Zane will always remember getting the guts out of a chicken, and pulling pin feathers off a duck. He smelt the smells and felt the feels.  

That’s truly farming. You can’t virtually farm. You have to need a shower at night and want to lay your tired body in bed to rest. That’s the real deal.

That’s what we love about teaching the way we do: it’s real. 

  • You’ll get to scrape the hog. 
  • You’ll get to move the cow fence for the cows to graze new grass.
  • You’ll get to put the food in the jar and the jar in the canner.
  • You’ll get to smell real soil.
  • You’ll get to taste the pork steak you just cut off the half a pig laying on the cutting table. 

Experience. How else do you learn how to do something? That’s why this is “The Anyone Can Farm Experience.” Because you get to experience how to farm, ask questions of people who really farm, and meet other people who really homestead in one way or another.

Come and be part of the experience!

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pastured poultry, chicken processing

Black Gold for the Homestead: Biochar

What’s your reason for pursuing homesteading?

If natural health is one of them, activated charcoal is already a tool for you, or it needs to be.

Activated charcoal is one of the safest, cheapest, most effective cleaners nature has to offer you.

It is simply organic materials (can be wood, coconut hulls, bamboo, even bones) that are super heated in an oxygen deprived atmosphere.  This roasts out all the toxins and all the other elements, leaving pure carbon.  The super heating also expands the carbon molecules so they have more surface area, and they are negatively charged.  The negative charge attracts and holds toxins.   The expanded, electrostatically attractive molecules provides a high rise apartment environment for water, toxins, minerals and bacterial life. This has a ton of potential health benefits for you! (Read more about that in this reference article: Activated Charcoal: 15 benefits and uses for health and wellness. Here are just a few of the benefits: 

  • Detoxification: from a drug or other toxin exposure
  • Diahrea (be sure to drink lots of water with it to avoid constipation)
  • Gas and bloating
  • Infections: both internal and external (makes a great poultice)
  • Reduce the effects of radiation
  • Support the liver (lower cholesterol, reduce toxin load, help clear the colon so the lymphatic system works properly)
  • Water and air purification

Activated charcoal is good for you, and for your garden and animals!

We live in a fairly toxic world. Even when we make organic choices and do our best to buffer our piece of earth, the fact is that we, our soil, and our animals are affected. That’s one reason we love biochar (which is the sasme as activated charcoal for practical purposes): it helps us keep our animals and ourselves clean and healthy. (Check out how we use it with the animals here: Biochar and your animals.) It helps pull out toxins so that our digestion is more efficient and our immune system can work better.

Often with our animals we “innoculate” the char with minerals and bacterias that are beneficial to seed good things into the soil and animals. The electrostatic charge holds water, minerals, and bacterial life to slow release them as needed. That creates an exchange where toxins get picked up. It keeps the whole system strong to repel unwanted viruses and bacterias that compromise good health. This is resiliancy. Our chickens grow faster. The cows give more milk. The pigs have stronger babies that grow quickly. The plants resist pests and produce even in harsh conditions. Just a small amount goes a long way to keep our whole farm system regenerative and resiliant.

Here’s more on how we make and use biochar (activated charcoal) on the homestead farm:

Want to learn more? Here are a few ways:

  1. Watch Mark’s live videos on biochar from The Anyone Can Farm Experience youtube channel.
  2. Join us here on the farm for TRIBE DAY. Mark is doing an hour workshop on biochar, plus you can enjoy the company of like minded folks and learn about other homestead topics, including how to start a homestead.
  3. Come to the farm to purchase biochar. It’s coming SOON to the Store, so check back if you need it shipped to you.
  4. Stay tuned for the “How to” video course coming out very soon.

Want to read up more on activated charcoal, along with other natural health remedies? The reference book I used is listed just over there to the right.

One last word: charcoal picks up everything, so use caution when taking with pharmaceuticals or medicinal supplements. Use it by itself with a 2 hour buffer before taking any other medicinal. And, drink lots of water! Charcoal can stop things up, and your body needs lots of water to allow the cleansing of the char to be most effective.