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From the Desk of Javon Miller

What's Happenin' on the Homestead

By Javon Miller Published: November 1, 2016 12:00 AM
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Joshua 24:13-15, "And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and the olive yards which ye planted not do ye eat.

Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the ood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

This is a verse I like to remind myself of on a regular basis. We are all so busy trying to make a living that at times I question whether we might not be serving the god of wealth and prosperity. I have to remind myself almost daily that we have only a short span to live this life and we must consciously choose our path.

I have been contributing to Amish Heartland for close to year now. I thought this issue I might give you a glimpse of who I am. If you read my past articles you were able to glean some of my values but I will give you a glimpse of our family and home life.

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I am Javon Miller. My wife is Becky and we have 2 sons, Brandon is 9 and Jayden is 6. We live on a small 2 acre off-grid solar powered home that could be called a homestead. Some people might call it a farm but to me, it is not large enough to be dubbed such. I call our place Locust Lane, this is due to the fact that our driveway is lined with locust trees on one side. This treeline and brush is a haven for birds, rabbits, chipmunks, and those dreaded snakes. Of course these are harmless and eat pests, but they are still enough to scare a person when they silently slither around.

I am self-employed and work at home. We own Enviro-Sol, an alternative energy company. We sell and install off-grid solar power systems for whole home power. We currently employ 4 people besides myself. I am in the process of selling it to another young local fellow.

I guess you could call me an entrepreneur. I enjoy starting up or buying small businesses and trying to grow them to a viable and salable size. Some are successful and then others you end up liquidating. This was the case with a small hardware store that I bought a few years ago. Bunker Hill Hardware was a small local hardware store that was slowly dieing after being sold by the retiring founders. We bought it from the second party to convert our solar business into a full homestead supply store. It worked well to drum up retail sales, but we ran out of space in a few years. So we liquidated the hardware store and let the solar business grow to where it is today. I find it interesting to watch a start-up venture grow and prosper.

With the pressures of everyday business, we all need a vent to debrief. Mine is our homestead projects.

I grew up on a traditional Amish farm. Hence my saying, I have a 100 acre heart on a 2 acre lot. As they say, you can take the boy off of the farm but you can never take the farm out of the boy. I still long for the farm and hope that someday we can return to one. If you have read my past stories you can glean that I hold a keen appreciation for nature and all living things that God gave to us.

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I thrill at the feel of handling a horse. Currently I own 5 horses. One is Star, our main buggy horse, which you might have read about in a previous article. When we bought him he was basically a barely controlled runaway. Now he is a horse that even my wife can drive on her own.

Smokey is a young horse that we raised as a colt. I have trained him to drive in a buggy and also to ride. Then we have a retired race mare that I have one foal from this year and another one due next spring. The boys also enjoy their Hackney pony mare, Millie, who is also due in the spring. We are all excited to see this foal and hope all goes well. I am interested in experimentation and bred her to a new breed, the miniature Clydesdale. Picture in your mind the Budweiser Hitch in about half size. Can you understand why we are looking forward to it?

Fritz is our colt that was born this year. He is a crossbred derived from a standardbred mare. These are the typical buggy horses you see trotting along our roads, and the stallion is a Friesan. A Friesan horse is bigger than our buggy horses but not quite as big as a draft horse. Typically black in color and have a beautiful personality. To get an accurate picture of this equine specimen, think back to your European history classes. Picture the old time warhorses, heavy boned, arched neck, powerful build, with an impressive physique. My sons are thrilled with Fritz. He shows promise for stature but more important is his personality. If we are walking through the pasture, he will come up to us and follow along wanting to play. It is through this interaction that our sons lost their fear of horses. Picture in your mind, a slight 55 pound 9 year boy leading a 1200 pound horse standing 5 1/2 feet tall at the withers. Brandon would have no chance but the horse and boy have enough respect for each other that it works.

All is not roses on the homestead though. We also learn that life has it's cycles. Last spring, I bought a small Jersey heifer. Hopes were that she would have a calf and turn out to be a small family milk cow for either us or sell to some other family. She had problems with the delivery. Both calf and cow survived but, the cow has some spinal issues ever since. She will never be strong enough again to have another calf. So what happens with such an animal? She has been on pasture all summer but come winter will need to be processed. Life is still real. Hamburger comes from cows so the weakest ones are used and the strong genetics continue.

We also have our own orchard. I have tried to go strictly organic in the past and have found that a workman's schedule is not conducive to organic gardening. I personally prefer to use a moderate spray schedule rather than waste good fruit to disease and pests. However, this year was so busy that I barely got that done.

I did however, start something new. I started a small experimental nursery with apple trees. I have always been intrigued with edible landscaping. I have, for the first time, tried my hand at bud grafting. The base that I started with is a dwarf, 3'-6' tall tree. I then grafted some Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, and a few other varieties to this base. It is strictly experimental and on a very small scale. The grafts appear to have healed and taken to the rootstock. It will be a few years until we see the actual results. If it is successful, these trees would do well in a flower garden, on a trellis, or even as a potted deck or porch plant. They would be the perfect size for a small city lot or if you have limited yard space and still yield enough fruit for a family's use.

I have a friend that contacted me a year ago about a heritage corn that he is trying to propagate. It has been in a West Virginian family for over 100 years. This is a white corn that gets used for grinding into cornmeal. All these years the family kept seed from year to year and it remained true to type. In his last years, the older fellow gave my friend a bagful of seed and said that it was 10 years old already. Seed corn production is in my family genetics. My great-grandfather and grandfather owned Miller Hybrid Seedcorn. This was when local seed growers were still needed. This was before the days of Monsanto and corporate monopoly.

Last year I planted this 10 year old seed. I got a barely 30% germination rate. I made some cornmeal from the poorer ears that I harvested and kept the best ears for seed this year. The corn bread that results from this is very good. The seed germination this year was excellent. Now what do I do with all the corn? If any one has any interest in some I would be glad to share. It is good old-fashioned corn, ideal for making corn bread. When I am making cornbread with it I think of the song that relates to days of the past. "Where I come from...it was a lot of front porch sittin'... it was cornbread and chicken, where I come from."

Next spring I will need to start again on my turkey project. Last year, we started a few turkeys that we raised on pasture. The resulting meat made some excellent burgers. We also enjoy the sizable breasts sliced into the size of a small pork chop. We marinade and grill them like a pork chop. A king couldn't have it better! The thought that we really liked was that these turkeys were not raised on hormones or GMO feed. They were grass fed on our homestead. It is good to know that we have control of our own food supply.

We raise our own chickens for eggs and meat. Our gardens yields bountiful lettuce, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, peas, sweet corn, cucumbers, peppers, and a host of other goodies that are canned or frozen for the winter. What is better on a cold winter evening than piping hot tomato soup and hotdogs made from your own beef or wild venison? Pure pleasure!

As you can see, we enjoy and appreciate this gift that God gave us. Very few places in the world afford the climate and ideal growing conditions that our Great Lakes Region has. We are truly blessed. Sure weeds do grow and need to be eradicated. Disease and pests abound. Livestock gets sick and can die. We are not promised an easy life. Yet, at the end of the day we can rest well. We have been granted health and food. We derive great pleasure and satisfaction from the sweat of our brow and the work of our hands.

I hope you enjoy this little glimpse of the life that our family enjoys. It is our own little piece of Paradise here on Earth. Look around your own home and see what you can do to add a bit of it to your life.


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