Happy Homestead Happenstances


How many slick tricks have you learned about farming and gardening more or less by accident? My favorite example happened because of laziness. I didn’t clean out the roof gutter on the barn for over a year. I have a longstanding prejudice against roof gutters anyway. Why not just let the water run off the roof onto a layer of gravel or stone along the wall? The gutters plug regularly and the water overflows anyway. This is especially true of my barn which sits in the woods. All sorts of tree leaves, twigs, and seeds end up in the gutter. Five tree leaves can plug a downspout no matter what kind of contraption you install to prevent it. And those screens that are supposed to keep debris out of the gutters become clogged and the water cascades right on over and down to the ground. That is, in any event, how I justify my laziness. Water running off the barn roof (as opposed to running off the house roof) is certainly not of any consequence as far as looks are concerned. In fact that water off the roof keeps the whole barnyard lawn nice and green all summer.

Now the plot thickens. Last year I decided to turn one of my pasture plots into woodland as you know if you have been reading this website. I figured I would just scatter all kinds of tree seeds over the plot and by and by some of them would sprout and grow. That does work, but I could see right away that nature’s way was going to be too slow for this old man. So I started transplanting seedlings. That too has proven not to be as easy or automatic as it sounds. Digging up seedlings is hard work and some of them die no matter how careful I try not to disturb the roots.

I was thinking about this situation one day in June when I happened to be walking past the barn. I looked up at the gutter and was startled to see that it looked like one very elongated pot of plants. All sorts of things were growing ludicrously out of it. But of course: maple, oak, ash, elm and wild cherry seeds had been washing into it for over a year. Some of them had sprouted and were growing with the abundance of rain that had fallen. I could lift them out with all their roots intact without straining one muscle, carry several dozen in a bucket at once, and plant them with only minimal effort.

Sometimes laziness pays. Happy happenstance farming!

Another example of learning by accident is something my sheep taught me earlier but never more graphically than this summer. On the strips where I grew corn last year, I disked and broadcast red clover this spring. It came up fine but then in our very wet May and June it faltered in the water-logged soil. I grazed it anyway, thinking it would come back with drier weather. But by mid-June, and after I shifted the sheep on to other plots, the clover was completely blotted out by crabgrass and quack grass. I moaned and groaned. By mid July, time for that plot to be grazed again, the strips that had been clover were bright green with these two grasses. But the sheep went after them like a child after chocolate.

So now I can tell you how to have good lush pasture in the hot dry days of summer. Pretend that you are going to grow corn. That’s really all you have to do. Plow and/or disk some land, then go away. It might even help to plant some corn if you have some cheap seed since I am convinced that quack grass and crabgrass will grow even faster and denser if they think they are competing with corn. Or broadcast clover like I did which also seems to bring out the villainy of these two weed grasses. Then pray for bad weather. Crabgrass and quack grass love it wet and love it dry. They are genetically engineered by nature to cover bare land to protect it against erosion and by hickory they will cover it come hell or high water. Where all those grass seeds came from to make such a magnificent stand, I do not know. Life is full of mysteries.

This method of growing lush pasture in summer is not necessarily a good thing. It requires cultivating the soil, which is what I am trying to get away from in pasture farming. But if you are going to cultivate some of your land every year anyway, a rotation of corn, quack grass and crabgrass is something to consider. Another happy happenstance might follow. It did for me. After the sheep grazed the grasses down to the ground, (they did a fairly good job on some ragweed that dared to dispute the territory with the grasses) I mowed the strips and guess what. Here comes the red clover back again!
See also Gene’s The Lovely, Life-Saving Virtue of Laziness


I’ve been living with a gutterless barn for three years, and by all appearances it has not had functioning gutters for about ten years. As tempting as it is, especially given the height of the eaves, to leave it that way, I just had a guy over last night to give me a bid on putting some up.

In my case, the water runs down the side of the foundation, finds cracks, and fills the basement milking parlor area with water. I get soaked every time I have to mess with a door latch in the rain. … and, as mentioned above, the cistern just keeps staying empty.

I’ve seen pole barns on a gravel pad with no gutters which appear to work well. Maybe it depends on the barn.

Lending new meaning to old adages…his mind is in the gutter.Good luck with your impromptu forest!It might be interesting to put some big gutters on skyscrapers in the city and see what happens-urban timberlines?

Beth – don’t use the grains for cheese! Keep those for making more kefir. Instead, strain the whey out of the kefir (which can taste an awful lot like lemonade – even if it smells somewhat like milk). You can press the solids and see what happens but I find that mixing in various flavorings makes a very tasty cheese spread. My personal favorite has olive oil, walnuts, thyme, salt and pepper in it. I like hard cheeses but this is easier and faster since I’m always making kefir. Kefir cheese is very similar to labneh, a Lebanese yoghurt cheese, which is just strained yoghurt.

Roof, yes of course gutters must have been invented to fill cisterns. Wby the heck didn’t I think of that?
Angel Wings, well maybe, but I don’t want to clean out gutters even while standing on the ground.
Russ, I still think you should take up humor writing. Or have you? Gene

45 years ago a guy named Eldon Groves wrote a piece for the Ohio Farmer magazine which was called “The Song of the Lazy Farmer” which celebrated the virtue of being an underachiever. It’s great to accomplish a goal, but it’s also pretty nice to sit and watch and wonder. Were gutters invented to fill the cistern?

Gene, why not take a moment over a cup of tea and check out the Internet and you will find, like I did, a great new way to clean out rain gutters. The name of this great new tool, which by the way was invented by “mom and pop” and made in America and is called the Gutter Clutter Buster, wet/dry vac attachment tool. You can clean 2nd story gutters with the GCB Kit and never let your feet leave the ground! Its fast and clean, then your gutters can be used to channel rainwater into rain barrels and you can save even more money. Its a win-win situation. Stay well, stay safe and “Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled.”

To take your tree starting system one step further, you could set up some old scrap gutters on downed branches at a convenient height in the woods and not even have to climb a ladder to harvest. A devious person could even sell the scrap gutter with instructions as the Logsdon Magic Tree Nursery System. And anyone who can successfully use reverse psychology on Mother Nature and her unruly chidren Quack and Crab to his own benefit has to qualify as devious. Well done.

Gene, you are so right! I have always been in agreement with Shirley Conran, who says she would much prefer “to lie on a sofa rather than sweep under it, but you’ve got to be efficient if you’re going to be lazy”. Lazy nearly always translates into efficiency if you have reasonably decent standards, because you look for the fastest, easiest way to get the job done and still keep your self-respect. I think I may have just found the best lazy way to make hard cheese: make lots and lots of kefir (a cultured milk product that forms grains which are the equivalent of cheese curds), drain the curds and give the whey to the pigs–or if you’re not too lazy that day you can use it to make bread–then press the curds just as you would any cheese and let them age. No stirring, messing with starter or rennet, checking temperatures… I sure hope it works! And I agree with you about gutters on barns, which are a royal pain in the you-know-what. We didn’t even put them on the house we used to have except for a couple of strips right over the doorways. Never saw any problems as a result, and those short strips took about ten minutes to clean. Let’s hear it for efficient laziness!

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